Twenty years ago the traditional Indigenous dance, shake-a-leg, became front page news. It was performed outside the High Court in Canberra to celebrate the court’s historic Wik decision, which held that statutory pastoral leases do not automatically extinguish native title rights. One of the claimants, a Wik elder, marked the occasion by dancing. It was the first time many Australians had seen or heard the term shake-a-leg:
Wik claimant Gladys Tybingoompa dances outside the High Court.
Gladys Tybingoompa could contain her exuberance no longer. She reached into her handbag, produced a pair of clap-sticks and whirled into a wild song and dance of victory. For a moment or two, every face around the normally sombre precincts of the High Court of Australia appeared to be wreathed in smiles as Ms Tybingoompa leapt and kicked through the dance she called ‘Shake a Leg’. She had travelled all the way from Cape York to Canberra to hear the High Court’s opinion of her people’s rights to their traditional land. (Sydney Morning Herald, 24 December 1996) Continue reading →
The Oxford Word of the Month is written by members of the Australian National Dictionary Centre and published each month by Oxford University Press Australia. Each Word of the Month looks at an Australian word or term in some detail, providing a history of the term and its role in current Australian society. If you wish to receive Word of the Month by email you can subscribe at the Oxford University Press Australia website.
Our Word of the Month for August 2015 is ‘tip turkey’: the white ibis, Threskiornis moluccus, often regarded as a pest in urban areas because of its scavenging at tips, etc. The evidence for this term goes back to 2009. The increasing numbers of these birds found scavenging from bins in parks and in other urban areas has led to a number of similar epithets including ‘bin chicken’ and ‘dump chook’. You can read the full Word of the Month in PDF form on our website or read it in an online format.