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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.

Push for bilingual education

By Patricia Karvela for The Australian

BILINGUAL indigenous language education should be introduced to all schools with Aboriginal students, and indigenous languages included as an official Closing the Gap measure, according to a parliamentary report to be released today.

The report calls for an emergency response to save the disappearing languages.

Read the full article

Parliament reports on indigenous tongues: can they be saved?

Greg Dickson, of Crikey language blog Fully (sic), writes:

Today federal Parliament releases the Our Land, Our Languages report, stemming from the recent inquiry into Learning Languages in Indigenous Communities. Our Land, Our Languages draws on 154 submissions and 23 public hearings held throughout Australia over the course of a year. The report comprehensively argues for greater recognition and resourcing of indigenous languages and calls for action to halt the embarrassing rate of loss and endangerment of native languages. It is a thorough, measured, yet still ambitious document arguing for indigenous languages to be elevated into a position of greater prominence and prosperity.

Read more: Parliament reports on indigenous tongues: can they be saved?

Aboriginal language gets app of life

By Patricia Karvelas for The Australian

A SMARTPHONE app has been designed specifically for the documentation of an endangered Australian indigenous language. The Ma! Iwaidja smartphone app has been developed as part of the Minjilang Endangered Languages Publication Project. The project team, based on Croker Island in remote Northwestern Arnhem Land, worked with Mr Bruce Birch, a linguist from the Australian National University to develop the app. The app includes a 1500-entry English-Iwaidja dictionary with audio, a 450-entry phrase book, a ''WordMaker'' allowing users to conjugate verbs and construct short phrases, and an information section about Iwaidja and other endangered languages of Arnhem Land.

Read the full article

Phone app helps save indigenous language

SMARTPHONE applications may hold the key to protecting endangered indigenous languages.

A project team on Croker Island in remote northwestern Arnhem Land worked with Bruce Birch, a linguist from the Australian National University, to develop a smartphone dictionary application called Ma! Iwaidja (pronounced "ee-WHY-jah").

The application includes a 1500-entry English-Iwaidja dictionary with audio, a 450-entry phrase book and an information section about Iwaidja and other endangered languages of Arnhem Land.

"The app becomes a living, constantly developing repository and capture device for a language that is otherwise losing ground fast," Mr Birch said.

Review: Dirtsong

Review by Michael Dwyer for the Brisbane Times. 4.5 stars

GREAT leveller, dirt. Scratch any surface and we're all in it together. In spite of the divisions and inequities implied by 11 endangered Aboriginal languages unearthed for an overwhelmingly English-speaking audience, the strength of Dirtsong is its profound essence of something shared.

The Black Arm Band is currently performing Dirtsong at the Melbourne recital Centre .

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