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Two weeks in the life of a Translation Advisor

I’m writing this on the Bush Bee bus as we travel from Pukatja to Alice Springs.Two weeks ago I set out from Crystal Brook (near Port Pirie) in a little aeroplane. My friend, Roger Crouch, had offered to fly me up to the APY Lands in his own two seater sports aircraft. We left early Monday morning and flew straight to Amata - way to go!

We arrived after lunch and Reuben Burton picked us up at the airport and took us into Amata. One of the school teachers, Yaritji (Tanya Pell), allowed us to stay at her place and so, after putting our things inside, we went down to the store to get some food and to tell the Pitjantjatjara translators that the workshop would be starting in the morning.

Sure enough, the next day several arrived at our house to start translating God’s word - Nyunmiti Burton, Tjikatu Burton, Stanley Douglas and Alan Wilson.

We continued working on the book of Daniel, which we had started editing when we were at the June workshop. Kanytjupai Armstrong, who lives in Alice Springs (a dialysis patient), had translated the first draft, and we looked at her draft making corrections so that the story was accurate and good natural Pitjantjatjara. After working for several days the translators said, “We really like this story of Daniel. We’ve learnt a lot of good things which we are passing onto our family.”

On Friday there was a funeral, but late in the afternoon Nyunmiti and Lillian came and worked on chapter 4.  They were enjoying the story so much that they wouldn’t stop working until they’d finished the whole chapter - by then it was 10:30pm.

Next morning Roger flew me to Pukatja & then flew on home to Crystal Brook. What a wonderful help he was.

Gary Lewis picked me up from the airport and took me to the Bible House in Pukatja. I put my things there and went over to my “daughter’s” house to watch the AFL grand final. I sat with my “grandson”, Thomas Tjilya, barracking for Hawthorne and was subsequently disappointed.

For the next week I worked with Katrina Tjitayi and her team, including Umatji Tjitayi, Yurpiya Lionel and Ann Jack. Katrina had been first drafting a number of chapters in the book of Numbers and so we worked on the story about Balaam and his donkey. During the week we also checked Psalm 3.

One night I was delighted when two younger men came along and did some translation work - Cyril McKenzie and his friend Daniel. We looked at Daniel, the translation that the Amata team had been working on and Cyril was able to make some valuable changes to the text.

We worked for several days in Ernabella, and then on Friday evening the team celebrated my 60th birthday.  Ann Jack made one of her famous dampers complete with lots of candles. It was fairly blazing when she presented it to me to blow out the candles. It was very special and I was delighted.

On Sunday morning I climbed aboard the Bush Bee bus and headed for Alice Springs via Fregon, Mimili & Indulkana - a 9 hour drive in an old 1991 Coaster bus.

Monday I got together with Kanytjupai at Topsy Smith hostel and we had look at Daniel. She gave me the draft she’d just completed of chapters 7-12 to be keyboarded. I asked her what she thought of Daniel, and I have translated her reply below.

“The story of Daniel is really really good. You know sometimes some of us get into this work and we think, “Boy, this is really difficult.” But this word of God’s that he spoke long ago, is really wonderful.  I have just finished working on this and there’s lots that I understood clearly but there were some parts that were, well, rather difficult. But it became clear - it was hard to understand at first because I didn’t know this story as it was the first time I had read it. But the Holy Spirit would show me. That’s why I so enjoyed working on this book of Daniel.

You know there were some really hard parts with all sorts of different characters like a ram and a goat, stuff that I couldn’t understand you know horns and stuff. But I carefully looked at it all and I began to understand. I came to see it was about what was going to happen in the future - that’s what it was showing through dreams - showing the way to life. Daniel saw these dreams and couldn’t understand the meaning - it was difficult, and he wanted to understand.

Likewise, we really want to understand correctly.  Sometimes we just don’t get it, but when we don’t understand the Holy Spirit shows us. I really enjoyed doing this work and when I got to the end I was elated at having finished it. It’s a fantastic story, though there are some very troubling parts - it’s about the last days. Yes, I’m very happy doing this work.”


Kanytjupai and I reviewed the translation progress and we were quite amazed at what has been done since July 2011:

Numbers Katrina Tjitayi has drafted 7 chapters and her team has now edited 22:21-41 to draft 2.

Joshua    Makinti Minutjukur has drafted ch 1-5 and her team has edited ch 1-2 to draft 2.

1 Samuel Kanytjupai has drafted 4 chapters.

Psalms    Various different people have drafted 12 Psalms and several have had team checks.

Proverbs Kanytjupai has drafted chapters 1-31.

Isaiah     Margaret Dagg has drafted chapters 2-7.

Daniel     Nyunmiti Burton & Nyurpaya drafted ch 1-2 and Kanytjupai drafted 3-12. The Amata team has edited ch 1-3 to draft 3 and Inawinytji Williamson (in Adelaide) with Paul has edited 2 chpts to draft 4. Cyril McKenzie & Gary Watson have also reviewed 1:1-7.

Leviticus  In the 1990s Margaret and Ann Eckert drafted 15 chapters and now Yanyi Bandicha is editing that.