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Two major recent events in the Northern Territory were Gurindji Freedom Day (discussed on the 7.30 report (21/8/06) (tx T & D for the link!)), and the Garma Festival. The song from the Lajamanu band that was played at Garma 'Gimme that old-time jukurrpa!' [jukurrpa = dreaming, law in Warlpiri] appeals to me for its lighthearted bringing together of present and past, English and Warlpiri, Christianity and Jukurrpa.

This year Gurindji Freedom Day is the fortieth anniversary of the walk-off on 23 August 1966, when Vincent Lingiari led Gurindji, Mudburra and Warlpiri workers and their families from Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory. In the celebration, Ted Egan sang his song "Gurindji Blues", which he and Galarrwuy Yunupingu recorded in 1971.

That song was how I, and probably many others in the early 1970s, first learned of the injustice of what was happening in remote Australia. At the Freedom Day this year, children and others sang Paul Kelly and Kevin Carmody's more recent "From little things big things grow"song, which relates the events and celebrates the handover of land. But Gurindji Freedom Day could stand for all the mobs who fought for their rights, from the people in the Pilbara to the people on Newcastle Waters. This year, alas, the celebration was overshadowed by the changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill, and this is discussed on the 7.30 report (21/8/06).

But other things happen on Gurindji Freedom Day - ceremonies, stalls, ideas - our ACLA child language acquisition project was represented there by Felicity Meakins, who is working on modern Gurindji, a mixed language of recent origin. It was part of letting people know what we're doing, and we were lucky to have such a chance. We're looking forward to hearing more about it.

Another festival, the Garma Festival (3-7 August this year) is organised by Yolngu, and acts as a celebration of culture and a chance to talk about important matters. It supports the National recording project for Indigenous performance,
Aboriginal music that Allan Marett and Linda Barwick (fellow blog-persons - declaration of interest!) are involved with. This year the theme was education. Good news included Kim Beazley saying that (like his father) he supports bi-lingual education, but recognises that it needs more resources if it is going to succeed. Which of course is true. A report is planned, according to the Garma website. There's some stuff available on Late Night Live (Phillip Adams attended and interviewed people). I haven't get the sense from the reports I've had that this year's Garma had many new ideas on education - but maybe that'll come in the report. Helen Verran in an interview with Phillip Adams had a point about how Yolngu are using computers, and sensibly deciding to stick with off-the-shelf solutions, rather than try to develop some custom-designed Yolngu specific solution to unspecified problems. Good for them!

Much of the interview was her thoughts on the mathematical knowledge involved in the Yolngu kinship system. There didn't seem to be much new in it. Yes, kinship systems involve logical operations. Yes, they can be represented as mathematical objects - see for example discussions of Warlpiri kinship in Wikipedia and, less accessibly but more detail: Mary Laughen 1982. Warlpiri kinship structure. In J. Heath, F. Merlan and A. Rumsey (eds.) Languages of kinship in Aboriginal Australia, (pp. 72-85). Sydney: Oceania Linguistics Monographs, University of Sydney. And other books, Marcia Ascher (1991) Ethnomathematics: a Multicultural View of Mathematical Ideas, Brook-Cole Publishing Company.

But what's needed are ideas about how this knowledge can be built on to help kids understand the kinds of mathematical concepts that they need to survive Australian society: numbers, arithmetic operations, probability. And beyond ideas, evidence that approaches to maths teaching based on these ideas actually work.


Great post! Thanks for putting it on my radar. Here's a link to the 7:30 report transcript: link. Tragically, I'm without TV at the moment.

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