This is a re-post of a note left at the wonderful linguistics website Endangered Languages and Cultures a couple of days ago by Jane Simpson, a linguist at Sydney University and who has for many years worked with languages across the country and particularly in central Australia.
She knows what she is talking about, so when she writes in such dramatic terms we should all sit back and listen. You can see more on the fascinating world of linguistics there and follow – or add your own – comments at the original page here.
Central Australia is home to some of Australia’s few communities where Aboriginal languages are still spoken by children: Warlpiri, Pitjantjantjara, Pintupi and some Arandic languages. For many years they had mother-tongue-medium instruction programs at school, often taught by trained Indigenous teachers and supported by linguists and teacher-linguists. Governmental support for these programs has eroded over the years. Fewer Indigenous people have trained as teachers — reportedly only a handful have graduated in the last couple of years over the whole Northern Territory.
And now Central Australian government schools have lost their last linguist. The funding allocated for the salary for the remainder of the year will go to the Darwin Languages Centre, which deals with non-Indigenous and Indigenous languages, but is mostly about teaching as a second language.1 No funding has been allocated for a Central Australian linguist in 2012.
There’s an Indigenous Language and Culture Officer position who supports schools, but again no funding is guaranteed for 2012.
So for the rest of this year and maybe forever — no linguist to support teachers in Central Australia in
* Indigenous Language teaching and curriculum development
* developing, providing and archiving resources for Indigenous language enrichment
* teaching English as an additional language – i.e. helping teachers understand the language background of their students so they teach them English more effectively
Let alone get new teachers up to speed on the language background that kids come to school with.
Let alone look after the immensely valuable language resources developed in Central Australia over nearly 40 years of mother-tongue medium instruction programs.
E-mail your constructive suggestions to the relevant NT Government ministers and officials as follows: Chris Burns, NT Education Minister: [email protected] , Chief.Minister Paul Henderson: [email protected] and Gary Barnes, CEO, NT Department of Education and Training: [email protected]
I suspect that there is a bit more to come on this one…watch this space…