Deeply depressing news from the Northern Territory

Central Australia is home to some of Australia’s few communities where Aboriginal languages are still spoken by children: Warlpiri, Pitjantjantjara, Pintupi and some Arandic languages. For many years they had mother-tongue-medium instruction programs at school, often taught by trained Indigenous teachers and supported by linguists and teacher-linguists. Governmental support for these programs has eroded over the years. Fewer Indigenous people have trained as teachers — reportedly only a handful have graduated in the last couple of years over the whole Northern Territory.

And now Central Australian government schools have lost their last linguist. The funding allocated for the salary for the remainder of the year will go to the Darwin Languages Centre, which deals with non-Indigenous and Indigenous languages, but is mostly about teaching as a second language.1 No funding has been allocated for a Central Australian linguist in 2012.

There’s an Indigenous Language and Culture Officer position who supports schools, but again no funding is guaranteed for 2012.

So for the rest of this year and maybe forever — no linguist to support teachers in Central Australia in

  • Indigenous Language teaching and curriculum development
  • developing, providing and archiving resources for Indigenous language enrichment
  • teaching English as an additional language – i.e. helping teachersunderstand the language background of their students so they teach them English more effectively

Let alone get new teachers up to speed on the language background that kids come to school with.

Let alone look after the immensely valuable language resources developed in Central Australia over nearly 40 years of mother-tongue medium instruction programs.

E-mail your constructive suggestions to the relevant NT Government ministers and officials: and Gary Barnes, CEO, NT Department of Education and Training:


  1. For example, the website states that the Darwin Languages Centre library currently caters for Arabic, Auslan, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tiwi, Vietnamese, Yolngu Matha.


  1. Felicity Meakins says:

    Let alone set up new programs in NT schools which have been calling out for them. Deeply depressing indeed.

  2. Wamut says:

    Perhaps the NT’s complete lack of foresight on how to deal with its many languages has caused the Federal Govt to take action. This looks very promising:

    Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities:

    Submissions due August 19.

  3. Felicity Meakins says:

    We may as well submit the last submissions we made to the last inquiries. Someone might take notice at some point.

  4. Jane Simpson says:

    Indeed! I reckon that we should be trying for serious submissions without overstatement that make clear the differences between the different language situations, and the consequent needs – so that there’ s no one-size-fits-all solution.

  5. Felicity Meakins says:

    Maybe a collaborative one from ALS too

  6. Maree Jones says:

    At least Yipirinya School in Alice Springs is holding the banner up high -actively teaches Luritja, Warlpiri, Central Arrente and Western Arrente language and culture a part of the core curriculum in the school with little help from the Federal governement and non from the state!

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