One of the most troublesome subjects for interpreters who work with Australian languages is finding acceptable ways to refer to the concept of a sacred site. In Kuninjku, these are known as Djang. In central Australia, the term Tjukurrpa is becoming more well known by non-Indigenous people. These terms involve more than just a location, but also ideas about deep history, the period of creation and the association between specific groups of people and totemic aspects which have their historical focus in these places. The term ‘Dreaming’ is so inadequate and misleading and so many Indigenous people are starting to reject this term, although others continue to use it.
I indicated by local sign language that I would stay where I was and that he should pass me, a signal involving a closed fist and one or two up and down movements of the wrist 'I'm staying here'. I should have realised of course that this signal wouldn't work cross-culturally and that only when I saw the police officer drive up to my window and start abusing me did I realise that this local signal had no currency with the constabulary. He protested I was being offensive and in between the yelling I attempted to somehow explain the intricacies of Bininj sign language. I realised it was a lost cause. It still is.