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Light is fading for indigenous languages

By Heath Aston, Sun-Herald state political editor.

IN DECEMBER 1992 the Keating government launched 50 dictionaries of Aboriginal languages.

A year in the making, the dictionaries were an attempt to preserve 100 or so remaining languages native to Australia. Once there had been 200.

Robert Tickner, the minister responsible, described the languages, with their wide regional variances, as ''precious national treasures'' that must be saved from extinction.

As with so many government initiatives on behalf of the Aboriginal community, it was an admirable exercise with results that didn't live up to the exuberant initial hopes.

Indigenous game puts Aboriginal language into play

By Andrew Faulkner for The Australian

UP in the far northwestern corner of South Australia, the tiny community of Fregon is cursing its rotten luck after being pipped by two points by the Pipalyatjara Lions in the grand final last Saturday. Today at the MCG, the Hawks embark on the final step to a premiership the pundits and bookmakers say is theirs.

The link? Both teams speak the same language.

Not just the language of football: the same language, full stop.

When small forward Amos Frank was plucked by Hawthorn from the APY Lands last year, some Hawks took it upon themselves to learn a few words of their new teammate's native tongue.

It started with the Pitjantjatjara for "run" and "kick" to help Frank - who had little English when he arrived at Waverley Park as a rookie - adjust after the huge dislocation of shifting to the big smoke. It was all about the family club welcoming a new sibling.

Soon the players were linking the Pitjantjatjara to make phrases.

Now they are speaking it on the field, and might even be using it in their set plays (although this has been denied by Hawthorn).

A sprinkling of stories

In reminiscing her first year in the job Suzanne Taylor of ABC Open comments:

"I also embarked on the ‘Mother Tongue’ Indigenous languages pilot project, which started during NAIDOC week. I’ve been working with local communities and Eastern States Aboriginal Languages Group to produce a series of films on how language is being kept alive in their regions. So far, we’ve produced stories about the Wiradjuri language of NSW, the GunaiKurnai language of East Gippsland and the Woiwurrung language of Melbourne and north-east Victoria."

Read more: A sprinkling of stories

Our Land, Our Languages and Preserving Our Heritage

Claire Bowern writes for Crikey FULLY(sic):

We’re all in a tizz at Fully [sic] over the new report Our Land, Our Languages. We’re usually pretty mellow when it comes to government releases but this one is worth taking up some pixel space over. It’s pretty rare that Indigenous languages (IL) get a day in the sun in such a spectacular way. The bread and butter of IL reporting most months is along the lines of “here’s a new phone app that’s going to save a language.” Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade, but phone apps don’t save languages, people do. Specifically, speakers do: the only way to “save a language” is to make it easier for people to learn and speak it, and that requires actions which are integrated through a community and which are flexible enough to cater to many different language situations. Phone apps and the like are great for what they do, but they target a particular need.

That’s why this report is so important: it recognises this fact and provides 30 recommendations for how to go about it. The recommendations cover a very broad range of activities, from language documentation to education, implications for health, interpreting programs, and increasing national recognition for Australia’s linguistic diversity. This is a great example of ‘thinking big.’ In our continued series of posts on specifics of the report, I’ll be focusing here on documentation and archiving.

Read more: Our Land, Our Languages and Preserving Our Heritage

Weekend to focus on the future of Aboriginal language

By Ross Kay for ABC Wide Bay.

The study of a language can lead to a new understanding of the world as you immerse yourself in a different culture. But what if you could do that in your own backyard?

That’s the invitation extended to the traditional owners in the Port Curtis and Coral coast region at the 2012 Immersion weekend.

The event will be held over three days at the Wyper Park Scout Camp in Bundaberg, and Phillip Brown, Central Queensland Language Centre co-ordinator says the weekend is designed to provoke discussion about local language groups, and to continue to build a framework for future education.

Read the full article.
Read the full article.

Daryn McKenny nominated to Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle

Daryn McKenny has been nominated to be a member of the Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle.  Co-lang was formally known as InField. Daryn has participated and taught at past InField gatherings. The Co-Lang Institute is made up of international people with the majority being Linguists and other Academics, Daryn has taken an allotted community position.

Congratulations Daryn! We look forward to hearing your updates from Co-Lang.

Read more: Daryn McKenny nominated to Co-Lang Institute Advisory Circle

Email Parlez vous Yolngu?

By Vicki Kerrigan for ABC Drive.

We must extinguish the idea of Australia as a monolingual place and there's no better place to start than in the classroom. ABC 105.7 Drive presenter Vicki Kerrigan on why all Australians should learn Aboriginal languages. Darwin sounds different. When you walk along the foreshore in Nightcliff, one of the most beautiful and popular spots in Darwin to enjoy the Arafura Sea, you can hear the difference. As you sit on the grass, under the trees which grow on the edge of the sand, you can eavesdrop on the languages of the first people of this country. Those who have travelled from north east Arnhem Land to the city might speak Yolngu Matha; those from the country north west of Alice Springs speak Warlpiri.

I am unable to distinguish between Warlpiri and Yolngu Matha and yet I can easily tell the difference between French and Spanish, or at a push the difference between Swiss German and German.

I am embarrassed to say that I am monolingual. When I travel overseas, the fact that I come from Australia is my excuse: Parlez vous Anglais, je suis Australienne. Even the French can forgive an English speaker from Australia because our island nation is just so far away from other cultures.

Yet the truth is, that is not the truth. There are hundreds of different Indigenous cultures in Australia which survive despite a constant struggle. In some communities around the Northern Territory local languages are spoken before English.

Read the full article.

First language education is a matter of common sense

Aidan Wilson writes for Crikey's language blog Fully(sic)

The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into language learning in indigenous communities, titled Our Land Our Languages, was tabled in parliament yesterday. Education was of course, a central theme of the inquiry and is a significant part of the resulting report.

The article ends with this comment: "It isn’t rocket science; it’s just common sense. Unless a child understands what’s going on in the classroom, they won’t engage, they won’t attend, and they won’t learn anything."

Read the full article.

School sees pitfalls in Indigenous language studies

By Frances Adcock and Marlina Whop for ABC News

The principal of Cherbourg State School, south-west of Bundaberg in southern Queensland, says it will be difficult to teach Indigenous languages in some schools.

A new report is calling on the Federal Government to introduce Indigenous language education into schools with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

Principal Peter Sansby says it is a good initiative but it may not be practical in some schools with a diverse range of students.

"In Cherbourg, for example, where the history of Cherbourg is lots of different cultures, Indigenous cultures and tribes relocating to Cherbourg, so we could be potentially teaching up to 40 different languages, so that could pose a difficult conundrum," he said.

Mr Sansby says the Wakka Wakka language was the first language spoken in Cherbourg and it is concerning that very few Indigenous people can speak it.

"I'm not aware of anybody's that's young that can actually speak the Wakka Wakka language," he said.

"I guess the first thing they'd have to do is employ some people to do some language reclamation.

"They need to start talking to the elders.

"The retirement home at Cherbourg has a number of people that do have the Wakka Wakka language but we are losing those people unfortunately too quickly."

Call for action to save Aboriginal languages

By Bianca Hall for the Sydney Morning Herald.

Aboriginal languages are in danger of being wiped out in the next decade, with only 18 of an estimated 250 original languages still spoken by significant numbers of people.

Those who speak Aboriginal languages as a first language face stark disadvantage and social problems, a report has found.

After more than a year of work, Parliament's standing committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs yesterday released a wide-ranging report recommending urgent work be done to ensure as many languages as possible survive, and that speakers of those languages are not further marginalised from mainstream society.

Bilingual tack gains traction for indigenous children

By Patricia Karvelas for The Australian

FEDERAL School Education Minister Peter Garrett has declared he will talk to state governments about adopting bilingual education for indigenous children, arguing school attendance rates would improve if they were taught in their first language.

Parliament's standing committee on indigenous affairs released a bipartisan report yesterday calling for more action to protect endangered indigenous languages, revealed by The Australian, and recommending bilingual education.

Mr Garrett's spokeswoman said the government "welcomes this report and recognises the importance of preserving indigenous languages". "Work has already begun on the draft framework for Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages as part of the rollout of the new national curriculum," she said.

Tony Abbott's Coalition also has backed bilingual education.

Read the full article.

The chance of a lifetime to save Indigenous languages

By Claire Bowern  for In Conversation.

It is not often that the opportunity comes along to make a real difference, but a new report into Indigenous languages in Australia has the potential to do just that.

Our Land, Our Languages has already been likened to the momentous Mabo decision. But where Mabo helped change our legal and cultural understanding of Indigenous land rights, this report highlights the fiction of a monolingual Australia and calls for recognition of Australia’s Indigenous linguistic diversity.

We have seen many reports on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their lives: “Bringing Them Home”, reports on Aboriginal deaths in custody, education reports, and the Ampe Akelyernemane (“Little Children are Sacred”) report, which sparked the Northern Territory Intervention.

This report is different. Rather than treating Aboriginal people as a problem to be solved, or adding yet another layer of bureaucracy onto already micro-managed lives, this report is about finding solutions within communities. Many previous reports have exposed a shameful history of abuse and neglect. This time, we see case after case of people doing the best they can under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Read the full article.

Indigenous students need bilingual education

A Federal Parliamentary committee says it received crystal clear evidence that school attendance rates would improve if Indigenous children were taught in their first language.

Parliament's Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs has released a bipartisan report calling for more action to protect endangered Indigenous languages.

Among the committee's 30 recommendations is a call for more money to be spent on bilingual education for Indigenous children and an interpreting service for Indigenous languages.

Read the full ABC article.

More support needed for first languages

TEACHING indigenous children in their mother tongue will help lift literacy rates and school attendance, a federal parliamentary committee says.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs committee has spent more than 12 months looking into language learning in indigenous communities.

Its report, tabled in parliament on Monday, made 30 recommendations and called on federal, state and territory governments to offer bilingual education programs from the earliest years of learning.

Committee chairman Shayne Neumann, a Labor backbencher, said it was "crystal clear" bilingual classrooms would improve school attendance.

"White Australia has dispossessed indigenous people of their land and of their language," he told reporters in Canberra.

Action needed to help preserve Indigenous languages

By Charis Palmer for The Conversation.

Language and Indigenous experts have welcomed a government report that recommends bilingual school education programs for Indigenous communities, saying it will benefit all Australians and help get some Indigenous languages off the endangered languages list.

The “Our Land Our Languages” report follows a 12-month inquiry by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

Read the full article and comments on The Conversation.

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