Yan-nhaŋu in the National Year of Reading

What a good decision in today’s Australia Day honours to make Laurie Baymarrwangga Senior Australian of the Year 2012! Read Claire Bowern’s post for an appreciation of her and her work documenting the Yan-nhaŋu language and getting it written down. She sounds a delightful person. 2012 is also National Year of Reading. Everyone with a … Read more

Buttering parsnips in the Year of the Dragon

Three things to think about/do.. 1. Creeping towards constitutional recognition Section 127A Recognition of languages The national language of the Commonwealth of Australia is English. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are the original Australian languages, a part of our national heritage This is what was proposed in a report on recognising Aboriginal and … Read more

Langfest 2011 – inspiration and exh(ilar)alation

Canberra is breath-taking at the moment, and I am just catching breath between marking and Langfest … it starts today with the French Studies conference. Tomorrow=Monday, dictionary-making, with AUSTRALEX, and a keynote by Sarah Ogilvie, the soon-to-be-director of the Australian National Dictionary Centre. Wednesday brings New Zealand and Australia together with the combined mega-conference of … Read more

Policy playtime

First there was (and still is, if you move quickly) the Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities being held by the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, discussed here. Then came the National Cultural Policy. This shouldn’t just be for visual and performing artists. It includes Cultural … Read more

Submit today!

Regarding the Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities being held by the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs: we would like to strongly encourage you all to make a submission to the Inquiry, and to reach out to communities, Indigenous organisations, educational institutions and any other relevant people and organisations.

Submissions are due by this Friday, 19 August. However, the Secretariat is open to giving extensions for submissions. If you need to make a late submission, or are concerned or need more information, you can contact the Secretariat by telephone on (02) 6277 4559 or by email.

Jane Simpson (ANU) has created a proforma of useful topics to include in a submission to the Inquiry. You can download the proforma from the RNLD web site here or read the details below.

23/8/2011: UPDATE from Jane Simpson Please draw on these points if they are helpful, but do include the details of your own situation, or concerns that you are familiar with. That’s more useful to the Committee.

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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 … Read more

A Warlpiri double launch

The annual meeting of Warlpiri-patu-kurlangu Jaru Inc. and its professional development workshop known as Warlpiri Triangle this year is being hosted by Yuendumu CEC, 16-19 May 2011.

This evening in the Yuendumu school library two resources were launched to a large gathering including senior Warlpiri women.

Yuendumu launch invitation

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Pap smears, footy and language/culture teaching

My colleagues teaching modern European languages are really into plaiting/braiding — recycling bins, speed dating, Tintin cartoons, Dante, and revolutionary songs in Uruguay are entwined with their language teaching. So now, if you were going to work with Aboriginal people to make a language/culture plait, what would it contain? I found an answer thanks to … Read more

Indigenous education in the NT – 2010 style

If you are interested in Indigenous education in Australia or what happens when Governments get worried about minority groups not reading and writing the dominant language, check out Prioritising Literacy and Numeracy: A strategy to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes 2010-2012. Darwin: Northern Territory Government Department of Education and Training. There are some good things in it, but there are some worrying things. Take this paragraph:
“The language and cognitive skills domain includes basic literacy; basic numeracy; interest in literacy, numeracy and memory; and advanced literacy. The percentage of Northern Territory children vulnerable and at risk in the Language and cognitive skills domain at the commencement of full-time schooling is significantly greater than the national average, as indicated below.” (p.6)
Now it may be that the NT has lots of children from all backgrounds who are at risk. But I bet this is code for “Indigenous children”. Looking further – what is literacy? Literacy=English literacy. How are the cognitive skills tested? Almost certainly in English. This calls into question the reliability of the information on which this claim is made.
A lot of people in the NT are worried about the NT Government’s approach to Indigenous education – Australian Society for Indigenous Languages (AuSIL) , Association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, NT branch (ATESOL NT) , Uniting Church in Australia, Northern Synod, Darwin Anglican Church of Australia, Diocese of the Northern Territory, Darwin and the Top End Linguistics Circle (TELC). They’ve got together to sponsor a seminar. So, if you’re in Darwin on Thursday 9 September, hop along to Indigenous languages in education Do current policies match our needs?
7:30pm, Thursday, 9 September 2010
Mal Nairn Auditorium,
Charles Darwin University,
Casuarina Campus
Contact: Phil Glasgow, 8931-3133

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NT Policy on Indigenous Languages

The NT Government is going to draw up a policy [.pdf] reported as “to save indigenous languages in the Northern Territory“. If the policy involves reversing the decision on stopping systematic mother-tongue medium instruction (aka bilingual education), great! If the policy involves doing something intelligent and well-grounded on developing teaching skills, materials, and curricula for … Read more