Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut January 02, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Gifts from Australia continue to support Inuit culture in Nunavut

He’s never been to Nunavut, but Bob Carveth is working to preserve Inuktitut

DAVID MURPHY

"Uncle Bob" displays a book on the Amundsen he sent to the Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, one of many gifts he sent to Nunavut communities last year including $2,000 worth of film making equipment to Chesterfield Inlet. (PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB CARVETH)

Australian Santa Claus Bob Carveth continued to support the Inuit language in 2013 with gifts aplenty for Nunavut schools and individuals.

The 72-year-old retired labourer and former English as a second language teacher from Southern Australia lives 15,000 kilometres away on the other side of the world, but continues his generosity toward Inuit children.

Last year Nunatsiaq News told ‘Uncle Bob’s’ story of preserving the Inuit language by giving gifts to students across the territory.

“It’s like a reward for doing their language studies,” Carveth said in a telephone call from his home in Australia.

Carveth sends cameras and flashlights to Nunavut schools so students can go out onto the land and record elders on nature trips to help promote and preserve Inuktitut.

“To the best of my recall, cameras have since been sent to Kimmirut, Qikiqtarjuaq, Kinngait, Igloolik, Arctic Bay, Taloyoak, Salliq (Coral Harbour), Chesterfield Inlet and Arviat,” Carveth said.

Carveth, who’s never stepped foot in Canada, developed an interest in the Inuktitut language after learning about the plight of Melanesians who live on Australia’s Norfolk Island in trying to preserve their language.

After a bit of research into other endangered languages, he came across Inuktitut, whose dialects have been described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as “vulnerable.”

A retired labourer and philanthropist with few personal expenses, Carveth decided to put his spare cash into supporting efforts by Nunavut schools and individuals to promote the Inuit language.

He even learned to speak Inuktitut though he does so with a heavy Australian accent.

This year, Carveth donated a book about Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen to the new Nattilik Heritage Centre in Gjoa Haven, and he also arranged for students in an Australian school to send books to Alookie School in Pangnirtung.

In January and May 2013, he sent camera gear to the Arviat Film Society and also the Ottawa-based Inuit college, Nunavut Sivuniksavut.
Sometimes Carveth just donates to individuals on a whim. 

“I found out that a student from the high school at Arviat was doing a project on radiation and I purchase[d] off eBay in the U.S.A. a Geiger counter, so he should be able to come up with a major effort with his science project this year,” Carveth said.

Carveth’s latest gift-giving came two months ago in October, when he sent 65 flashlights to Resolute Bay as rewards for continued language studies.

But one of the largest recipients this year, and in Christmas 2012, went to Chesterfield Inlet.

“Chesterfield Inlet — we just worked so well together. And I put a lot of money in this school,” Carveth said.

“Small schools like Chester[field] don’t get access to gear like this from the education department. That movie gear and accessories cost well over $2,000 and had me living poor for some time,” Carveth said in a follow-up email.

Science teacher Glen Brocklebank at the Victor Sammurtok School said “it seemed like there was a package coming every month.”

“I think he’s got a heart of pure gold — like, a huge heart and [he] wants to do good things in the world. And we’ve been extremely fortunate that he’s picked us,” Brocklebank said.

Carveth sent 70 flashlights with rechargeable batteries, a remote controlled robot, a Canon KL2 camera and microphones, tripods, stands, lights and a laser disco over the course of a year.

Brocklebank said the camera helped to send videos of the kids making kayaks to a sister school in the south too.

“I think he’s a bit of a philanthropist that’s trying to make sure that things that could be used go directly to places that could use them,” Brocklebank said.

And it’s all in the name of language and culture, Carveth said.

“I know they have to keep their language. It’s who they are, you know? And so much of their culture is destroyed. We see it so much in their aboriginal culture. They get lost in the middle between the two cultures,” Carveth said.

Now looking on to 2014 and beyond, Carveth has some more lofty goals to promote aboriginal culture not just in Canada, but down under, too.

He’s been recommending to Nunavut Sivuniksavut that they make a trip to New Zealand, and he has been in talks with Inuit author Michael Kusugak about taking a trip to Australia or New Zealand as well.

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