[ Update: David Wilkins has just published an article W(h)ither language, culture and education in remote Indigenous communities of the Northern Territory? in the Australian Review of Public Affairs (October 2008) on the topic which is well worth the read as it covers some of the research into bilingualism, bilingual education and the cognitive advantages. Essential reading for people who want to base policies on evidence.]
Previous posts (here, here, and here) discussed the likely bad effects of the NT Minister of Education's proposal for Indigenous children to be taught English for the first four hours of every school day.
The Minister has now clarified this in Parliament. It's rather carefully worded, and doesn't mention the four hours proposal. It gives qualified support for Indigenous languages.
"Our schools will still be able to undertake Indigenous language and cultural programs and I emphasise strongly here that I am not removing the resources from our two-way schools. There will continue to be Indigenous teacher assistants working in partnership with the teachers in those classrooms in our very remote schools."
This is welcome, but it needs further clarification. Not "removing the resources" doesn't preclude "diverting the resources". An Indigenous teacher assistant could spend a lot of time photocopying English lesson plans, and no time explaining class material in an Indigenous language to children who don't understand English.