Darkening clouds are looming over Indigenous languages in the Northern Territory. Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and national Race Discrimination Commissioner, has put up a defiant umbrella - the Eric Johnston lecture which includes a well argued section in support of bilingual education. I was struck by the comment that this year "seven students from five homeland communities in North East Arnhem Land will be the first homeland students to graduate with the Year 12 Certificate." Tremendously good news.
Other umbrellas are going up too - some honourable souls have leaked to AAP the following:
"preliminary results from the Evaluation of Literacy Approach (ELA) report, .., found that for "active reading skills in English" students at bilingual schools achieve better results than non-bilingual schools by the time they reach Grade 5."
[Update: And there's a good letter by Patrick McConvell in the Sydney Morning Herald, along with Wendy Baarda's letter in Crikey. Anggarrggoon has several posts on the topic.]
Gleams of sunlight come from the Araluen Art Centre in Alice Springs. They have a travelling exhibition about Darby Jampijinpa Ross of Ngarliyikirlangu, north of Yuendumu. Jampijinpa was an extraordinary man; there's a beautiful book about him, by Liam Campbell Darby : one hundred years of life in a changing culture, Sydney : ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ; Alice Springs, N.T. : Warlpiri Media Association, 2006. It comes with a CD of Darby singing in Warlpiri, as well as telling stories about early days, about the Coniston Massacre. For these he uses the language which he learned as a young man, the Aboriginal English/Kriol which has become the spine of the new mixed language Lajamanu Light Warlpiri.
Araluen also have a new exhibition which brings language together with art (including text, sculpture, etchings, installation, and digital media). Intem-antey anem 'These things will always be': Bush medicine at Utopia, is opening at the Araluen Gallery in Alice Springs,on Saturday November 29th at 2 pm, with Lena Pwerl and Josie Douglas speaking and a performance by Utopia women. The exhibitors are students from Utopia (Alyawarr and Anmatyerre) who are studying their own languages, art and craft at the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Education (BIITE), Alice Springs campus.
The exhibition runs until 8th February. A week after the exhibition opens, nine women from Utopia together with some BIITE staff will head to the World Indigenous People's Conference on Education to present on the teaching /learning aspect of the project.