Akawyan Pakawyan, a senior leader of the Indigenous Pinuyumayan people in the Puyuma village of Taiwan delivered the 2023 Narrm Oration, reflecting on her own journey and work alongside the history of Taiwan.
Akawyan, born in 1938 in the Puyuma Indigenous village in Taiwan, is a key figure in efforts to restore and maintain Indigenous languages and cultures throughout Taiwan.
Delivered in the Indigenous Taiwanese Puyuma Language, with translation services provided in English and Mandarin, Akawyan’s Oration was titled Cultural Reawakening: a Taiwanese Indigenous woman’s journey through memories and revitalisation.
The Narrm Oration is the University of Melbourne’s key address profiling Indigenous leaders from around the world to advance ideas about Indigenous Australia. Narrm is the Woi Wurrung word for the Melbourne region. This year’s address was the first time the Oration has been delivered entirely in a language other than English.
Akawyan’s Oration unveiled the story of a Puyuma woman who not only derives strength from her cultural heritage but also elevates its prominence.
Akawyan’s life is a tapestry of resilience and cultural fidelity, a legacy that illuminates the path of cultural revitalisation for the Pinuyumayan and other Indigenous peoples in Taiwan.
She is fondly revered as Founder of Taiwan’s national Indigenous Assembly Dance. Her extensive research into Pinuyuman language and culture has created the foundation to restore and maintain all Indigenous languages and cultures in Taiwan.
In her Oration, Akawyan drew on her own experience to reflect on the significance of reinstating important cultural practices to the community, to help keep the storytelling and language learning of these cultures alive.
“In the process of learning and passing on, I realised that the misaur (women’s millet weeding work group) was an important school for our girls,” Akawyan said.
“Wherever the misaur had been discontinued for some 20, 30 or 50 years, elders no longer told stories, and women no longer gathered together to talk about how to become a woman.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) Professor Barry Judd hosted the event, and Associate Provost Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AO provided the response to the Oration. Professor Langton thanked Akawyan for her courage and commitment to preserving her culture, which provided inspiration to Indigenous peoples everywhere.
This year’s Narrm Oration was also attended by delegates from the Association of Pacific Rim Universities’ (APRU) Indigenous Knowledges Workshop, a week-long workshop addressing opportunities for international university collaborations in Indigenous knowledge.
This year’s Narrm Oration was held at the David P. Derham Theatre, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne, Parkville.