Lost in the relief over the ceasefire in Lebanon, the dropping of the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006, and the proposed conscience vote on stem cell research, another bill has passed that will greatly affect the lives of many speakers of Aboriginal languages. This week the Senate has been discussing the ABORIGINAL LAND RIGHTS (NORTHERN TERRITORY) AMENDMENT BILL 2006. Go to Hansard for Tuesday 15/8/06 and Wednesday 16/8/06 for the speeches by Senators Christopher Evans, Rachel Siewert and Andrew Bartlett which bring out the likely consequences of the bill. The Age has an article on it [thanks!], but there’s not much else. Working in the Northern Territory in the 1980s, I provided linguistic evidence for the Warumungu land claim, and was able to see the effect that the success of that and other claims had. People took greater control of their own lives and futures, and one effect was increased interest in, and effort to maintain, their own languages. It was clear that land mattered to people, and, on the negative side, could lead to violent disagreements between groups. The implementation of the Native title legislation has made this much worse. But this bill has the potential to create even more disagreements.

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Training for speakers of indigenous languages in language work

Today I’ve been pointed to The Center for Indigenous Languages of Latin America (CILLA):
“The Center hopes to help indigenous communities realize their goals of language recovery and widening the contexts of language use by providing technical education in fields related to language, with an emphasis on language maintenance, documentation, and applications to social institutions that depend on language and communication among all citizens.”
They have some excellent ideas about training and working with speakers of Indigenous languages.

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SBS Program on PNG

I’ve just been pointed to an interesting program on SBS radio on language use in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville. Greg Muller interviews Bill Foley and Sana Banai who is a Hakö speaker from Buka Island, near Bougainville. Both Sana and Bill talk about language and identity, and vernacular literacy. And they both talk about the spread of Tok Pisin, how it is a unifying language, the language of mates, the most common language in Port Moresby, and now is becoming a lingua franca. (Surprising isn’t it that Tok Pisin isn’t taught in schools and universities in Australia? Where are the intensive courses for our soldiers going off to be peace-keepers?)

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Indexing and managing song recordings for e-publication

Allan Marett and I spent yesterday meeting with the good folks from Sydney e-Scholarship regarding a publication project we have to archive some of our song recordings in the University of Sydney Library’s Dspace repository and then link to them from an electronic publication we are developing about six repertories of wangga songs from the … Read more

Current fieldwork technology – over to an aunt!

Our sister blogger (perhaps ‘aunt’ since she’s been blogging much longer!) Claire Bowern has started to post sections of her draft manual on fieldwork on her blog. First off are some gripping posts on those inevitable initial questions: “What recording equipment should I get?” The answers change each year – but the categories Claire uses … Read more

Census night

How did you interpret the intent of Census Question 22 “Does the person ever need someone to help with, or be with them for, communication activities?” What’s ‘Australian’ ancestry (C.Q.18)? As always, census forms raises concerns of interpreting the questions, and interpreting the answers to the questions, especially when the forms are being filled out by speakers of other languages.
Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald has a short article on the physical problems of doing the census at Wadeye, in particular the fact that they have “hired eight Wadeye residents who translate the questions for people into their local language and then fill in the answers for them.” A good start. The mention that John Taylor was there as an observer took me back to his excellent co-authored paper “Making sense of the census: observations of the 2001 enumeration in remote Aboriginal Australia.”

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National Indigenous Languages Forum “Technology-language-culture” 5th – 7th September 2006

Fancy going to Port Hedland in the Pilbara to discuss Australian languages in early September this year? A flyer arrived from FATSIL (Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages) asking for us to spread the word on their conference and Annual General Meeting. I can’t see anything about it on their website, so download the flyer if you want registration forms and membership forms. A summary follows.

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Language revival – nice Gamilaraay resources and good news on assessment

The Wednesday linguists’ lunch at the CHATS cafe, ANU is a free-wheeling discussion of language, Indigenous Studies, and life in our various institutions – this week it ranged from the reconstructions of the pronunciation of  place-names (is Ulladulla really  Nguladarla?),  to language revival programs, especially John Giacon’s experience with Gamilaraay,  and what works and what doesn’t.

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