« !Khwa ttu: San culture and education centre | Blog home | Sorry Day »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance

[ From Carmel O'Shannessy, who's worked in the NT Department of Education for many years, and has recently finished a PhD on children's Warlpiri]

Mal Brough shows how much he doesn't know about Australian Indigenous children's schooling when he suggests in today's Australian that compulsory learning of English would be something new. All children in Australian schools compulsorily learn English. Children in bilingual schools in the NT, of which the school in Wadeye community is one, also learn an Indigenous language at school. By the end of their primary years, if the school is well run and good programs and teaching methodologies are in place, the children in bilingual schools perform slightly better in English than the children in similar communities who attend English only schools. And they can also read and write in the Indigenous language, so they have learned twice as much.

Teaching English as a Second or Foreign language (ESL/EFL) is a specialty skill, and far too few teachers in remote communities have appropriate ESL/EFL training. If the school is under-resourced, the teachers are inadequately skilled, the methodologies are inappropriate and the children feel like they are in a foreign environment, the programs will not be good and high levels of proficiency won't be reached. But all too often the decision makers fail to see the obvious, and fail to support the very things that would help.

For example, the DEET NT Language Resource Officer position in Central Australia has recently been vacated, and DEET NT has decided not to fill the position, because it needs to save money. The Language Resource Officer provides linguistic support for bilingual schools in the Centre, for both Indigenous languages and English. Most non-Indigenous staff in the schools, who are the majority of staff members, have little or no understanding of what a bilingual program, or even an ESL/EFL program is until they get to the particular school. Systemic support from experienced linguists is essential. But no, let's cut the positions and then tell the kids they're doing a bad job at learning English!


Either the Minister for Indigenous Affairs is so badly informed about schools in Indigenous communities that he should resign his portfolio. Or else he does know that actually children must learn English at school. So why would he lie?

Either way, in what other unlucky country would a Minister for Indigenous Affairs blithely admit to basing policy, not on figures, but on a couple of conversations?

"Mr Brough said he had no figures but made his conclusions after speaking to grandparents in indigenous communities who lamented the fact that they had better English language skills than their grandchildren."

No figures???? He makes policy without looking at the figures? Would anyone seriously make policy for urban schools based on similar evidence - lamenting letters to newspapers about the way young people 'mangle' English?

And also on figures... Mal Brough is quoted as saying:

"it was a "cop-out" for communities to refuse to learn English because it was not an Aboriginal language, particularly when there were several languages in each community.

Name one community where the community has refused to have their children learn English. In nearly 30 years of visiting different Aboriginal communities I have never come across this. But I have met many people who have attended English-only schools, lost their traditional languages, and live on the dole or on pensions.

As Carmel says, start putting real money and real thought into public education for the children. And stop humiliating their families with baseless allegations.

And for further discussion, see Kimberly's post at Long Road and Jangari's post and the comments at Matjjin-nehen.

And for a comment from the education and policy perspective, see Joe Lo Bianco's excellent letter in today's Australian.

I am a highly educated teacher (Master's in Applied Linguistics + Degree of Economics, + 5 years studies in teaching Modern Greek to bilingual students). I am an expert in teaching bi- or trilingual students but because English is not my first language, I may not be "suitable' which is a linguistics non-sense. There is a need for teachers like me out there and it makes me sad and depressed, that there is nobody to turn to; though I would like to get in touch with the Aboriginal communities who are in need to have a good teacher. Ministers, their politics,I do not care about them, but of course I hope that the whole discussion leads somewhere. The fact remains - there is a NEED and all I want to do to help in the only way I can: teaching. I see that the whole discussion somehow outdated, but still, there is my comment, if anybody would read it, welcome to answer me.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Enter the code shown below before pressing post

The Authors

About the Blog

The Transient Building, symbolising the impermanence of language, houses both the Linguistics Department at Sydney University and PARADISEC, a digital archive for endangered Pacific languages and music.


Papua New Guinea FAQs from Eva Lindstrom Papua New Guinea (New Ireland): Eva Lindstrom's tips for fieldworkers

Australian Languages Answers to some frequently asked questions about Australian languages

Papua Web Information network on Papua, Indonesia (formerly Irian Jaya)

Hibernating blogs

Indigenous Language SPEAK

Langguj gel Australian linguistics and fieldwork blog

Interesting Blogs

Omniglot Writing systems and languages of the world

LingFormant Linguistics news

Language hat Linguistics news and commentary

Jabal al-Lughat Linguistics news and commentary on a range of languages

Living languages Blog with news items and discussion of endangered languages

OzPapersOnline Notices of recent work on the Indigenous languages of Australia

That Munanga linguist Community linguist blog

Anggarrgoon Claire Bowern's linguistics and fieldwork blog

Savage Minds A group blog on Anthropology

Fully (sic)

Language on the Move Intercultural communication and multilingualism

Talking Alaska: Reflections on the native languages of Alaska

Culture matters: applying anthropology Australian anthropology blog: postgraduates and staff

Long Road ethnography and anthropology blog - including about Australia

matjjin-nehen Blog on Australian linguistics, fieldwork, politics and the environment.

Language Log Group blog on language and linguistics


E-MELD The E-MELD School of Best Practices in Digital Language Documentation

Tema Modersmål Website in Swedish with links to sites on and in many languages

Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project: Language Documentation: What is it? Information on equipment, formats, and archiving, and examples of documentation

Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources a worldwide network of organizations, academics, activists, indigenous groups, and others representing indigenous and tribal peoples

Technorati Profile

Technology-enhanced language revitalization Include ILAT (Indigenous Languages and Technology) discussion list.

Endangered languages of Indigenous Peoples of Siberia

Koryak Net Information on the people of Kamchatka

Linguistic fieldwork preparation: a guide for field linguists syllabi, funding, technology, ethics, readings, bibliography

On-line resources for endangered languages

Papua New Guinea Language Resources Phonologies, grammars, dictionaries, literacy, language maps for many PNG languages

Resource network for linguistic diversity Networking practitioners working to record,retrieve & reintroduce endangered languages


ACLA child language acquisition in three Australian Aboriginal communities

DELAMAN The Digital Endangered Languages and Musics Archives Network

PARADISEC The Pacific And Regional Archive for Digital Sources in Endangered Cultures

Murriny-Patha Song Project Documenting the language and music of public songs and dances composed and performed by Murriny Patha-speaking people

PFED The Project for Free Electronic Dictionaries

DOBES Endangered language documentation and archiving, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation and sponsored by the Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen.

DELP Documenting endangered languages at the University of Sydney

Ethno EResearch Exploring methods and technology for streaming media and interlinear text