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Bagarap (1) how not to read census numbers

Uncertain future for town's new arrivals
Simon Kearney, Yuendumu | August 27, 2007

LIFE will be a lottery for the 25 children born this year in the remote Northern Territory Aboriginal community of Yuendumu.

Based on last year's census, it is likely that only two of these children will finish Year 12 and five of them will grow up without any command of the English language.

What Kearney must have done is take the percentage of all Yuendumu inhabitants who don't speak English, and base his 5/25 figure on that. Conveniently forgetting that most of the non-English speaking Warlpiri are old people. Kids learn English at school.

Bagarap (2) Pitjantjatjara Babelfish didn't take the bait
Judging by the police translation of the Haneef Urdu chatroom conversation, the Babelfish is the translator of first resort for national security cases. For Indigenous sexual abuse cases though, there's no Babelfish interpreter, as this ABC story shows.

Judge angered by lack of interpreters

Posted Fri Aug 24, 2007 3:33pm AEST

A Supreme Court judge has expressed outrage at a 'highly unsatisfactory' shortage of Indigenous interpreters.

Justice Robyn Layton had been due to sentence two brothers today for raping a girl in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara lands in outback South Australia, about three years ago.

But the men, in their 20s, speak little English.

Justice Layton said a male translator had been arranged earlier in the week.

But just an hour before today's hearing, the interpreting service confessed that it had not been able to find anyone suitable.

The judge said the shortage of interpreters throughout the case had led to a waste of resources in every sense, including emotionally.

The sentencing is now set down for next Friday but Justice Layton concedes that there is still no interpreter confirmed.

At another hearing, Justice John Sulan released a 27-year-old Aboriginal man a fortnight ago because there was no interpreter for mental assessments or legal interviews in the nine-month-long case.

Supposedly the "Intervention" is putting some money into NT interpreter services. Maybe the Federal Government'll get around to spending it.


Why on earth do people persist in the fallacy of generalising from a trend to individual cases? Some basic statistical literacy would be an advantage for journalists...

If they attend school. I understand very few kids there are actually attending school at the moment. Two last Monday. The Mt Theo mob have suspended their youth program in order to try sending signals to kids that they need to be at school.

Even if the kids don't attend school, they are still much more likely to learn English than older people, and the point about Kearney's misunderstanding of how to extrapolate from census data holds. Across Indigenous Australia the trend is overwhelmingly against retaining traditional languages.

School attendance goes through phases - which of course itself is not good. Yuendumu School has had periods with excellent Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal teachers and principals when attendance has been good. A best case scenario would be for the 'intervention' to be developed by community members together with intervention members as a real partnership, and backed up by an interesting school program with Aboriginal teachers who can explain to kids what's happening in their own language, and with effective English-as-a-second-language teaching by trained ESL teachers. Then kids might learn standard English, rather than, as is happening in many places, a creole or non-standard English, which is becoming a way of saying 'I'm Aboriginal'. My guess is that if the 'intervention' continues to be seen by Aboriginal people as basically the whites out to get them, then this will hasten the change from traditional languages to a creole. Talking a creole or Aboriginal English becomes a way of saying 'I am not a white person.'

The current proposal at Yuendumu of making kids who don't go to school go out and pick up rubbish instead seems to me likely to be counter-productive (getting both adults and kids offside), as well as being illegal - how can it be legal to make kids pick up rubbish instead of going to school?

You mob have gone a bit quiet. Anything the matter?

Sometimes we reads and writes, and sometimes we just reads....
- your post on the intervention
- Living Black on the confusion of the people of Yarralin nearly 3 months on
- Jangari's on-going commentary, and Kimberly's commentary at Long Road
- "It's not really your art centre": Life today in Ltyentye Apurte " - Judy Lovell of Keringke Arts on Will Owen's blog.
- The Bartlett Diaries
and lots of pieces by Henri Ivrey, Anna Lamboys and Bob Gosford and others at Crikey (most recently, Ivery's piece on Sharman Stone's creativity in explaining how losing CDEP will help people).

Shock and awe, Mike Rann said of the intervention - and, alas, we're gathering evidence of the same lack of forethought and planning for what happens after the bombing.

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