Volunteering with the Living Archive

This month, we’ve had Sue Weekes from Canberra volunteering with the Living Archive project team. Here’s what she says about her experience.

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages welcomes interns and volunteers willing to assist with retaining a special collection of the Northern Territory, produced by local people. I recently completed a month long program which was my attempt in helping to provide access to this unusual and unique collection.

The Living Archive has a number of hard copy texts that have been donated to the project for digitisation. In my volunteer role I checked the titles on Trove so the team could decide who to give their copies to. There are copies spread throughout the NT in the CDU library, the NT Library, and Batchelor Institute, and in Canberra in the (the NLA) and AIATSIS. The project team will talk to the NT Library about adding these hard copies to their special collection.

In my other activities, I worked on preparing digitised materials for uploading to eSpace, the CDU digital repository which stores all the digital artefacts in the Living Archive. There were a few collections of books from Papunya and Barunga that had been digitised but needed to be prepared as PDFs and text files with cover images. I also worked on text correction of the text files generated by OCR and compared them to the PDF files – and gave me the opportunity to read and learn some Kriol language which is used in a number of Aboriginal communities across the NT. I also helped prepare for the repatriation of digital files to the communities of origin by creating a list of file numbers and sizes.

The Living Archive is located in the Northern Institute at the Charles Darwin University. I can recommend July as a lovely time of year to visit Darwin, and a chance to escape the cold weather down south. The campus is on the north side of town, but easily accessible, and has a number of activities that a volunteer can attend, such as talks and seminars. There are also other cultural institutions in Darwin that are well worth a visit.

I really enjoyed my time here getting to know Cathy Bow the Project Manager for the Living Archive who was always helpful and instructive, staff of the Northern Institute who were very welcoming and inclusive, and participating in some of their events, in particular the activities held here for NAIDOC week.

Other interns or volunteers could further assist in the Living Archive program, either by working in house or online anywhere in Australia, so that these endangered texts can be edited and uploaded to the Living Archive. Performing this work will ensure access for readers, researchers, and reach other interested audiences Australia-wide.

Arrernte students working on texts

David Moore from the Alice Springs Language Centre writes about how they’re using materials in the Living Archive.

Currently we are working on Ripponlea Institute with the development of Cert III in Applied Language. We need a stack of accessible and useful resources for our students in the various languages.

We looked at some of the Arrernte materials on the Living Archive and found that many of them are virtually unusable. They were written a long time ago, and have missing grammatical markers, older spelling, spelling mistakes and obscure words. This means that we can’t take these texts from the site and use them in class without extensive re-working.

What is needed is texts which enable the learner to progress with access to notes and explanations, guides to how grammar and lexical items are used in the text. It seems that the LAAL texts have that potential if spellings were regularised to conform to current Arrernte spelling, mistakes corrected and guides for the learner attached to current files.

Anwerene_cover

I worked with some Arrernte teachers on a few texts, changing words to standard dictionary spellings and reorganising sentences so that this book can be read more easily in class. You can see one uploaded to LAAL as ‘Other Text’ for the story Anwerne Alheke Yerrampeke.

Over time we would like to re-work more of the texts as a class exercise for Cert III. Using texts in various classes we get a sense of how they can be developed. We could make an assessment task for students to work on creating new texts of enhancing some of the Arrernte books that are currently on LAAL.

Josiah Armstrong and I are working on the text for Akngulye arerte from the Arrernte collection in LAAL. We use the Arrernte Picture Dictionary and the Eastern and Central Arrernte to English dictionary to write current spellings: e.g. ‘othene’ changed to ‘uthene’. We will also make an English translation and glossary. The next stage would be to develop worksheets and activities based around the text.

Working on LAAL texts on whiteboard

Students will learn to read the texts and will read the text to primary classes when they are on VET work placements in schools. 

There are a number of pathways that this course supports: language teacher, translator, writer, illustrator, editor, language research assistant and Language Centre worker….

There is also a lot of potential here for further research, exploring some of the ways in which LAAL can influence language practices.

LAALbot now on Twitter

The wonderful Tim Sherratt has produced a simple guide to creating a Twitter-bot drawing information from Trove and posting it to your Twitter account. Not being a programmer myself, I was curious to know if I could build a bot to post an item from the Living Archive every day.

The whole process probably took only a few hours, from setting up a new Twitter account (https://twitter.com/LAAL_bot), getting a Trove API key, working my way through the instructions on Glitchsome trips up the garden path (switching from a trove-title-bot to a trove-collection-bot) and working out what I did wrong when I got error messages.  My first efforts selected random items from the complete CDU Library repository, so I had to ask for help to narrow the range to just the items in the Living Archive collection, to which Tim gave a helpful response. A little bit of customising the text (from “Another interesting item” to “Check this out from @living_archive!”) and creating a cron-job to tweet daily, and we’re in business!

The LAALbot gives the title and cover image of a book from the Living Archive, and links it to the record in Trove. So you don’t go directly to the item in the Archive, but can get there indirectly via Trove (go down to the green View online button and click on the Freely available link to the CDU repository). Twitter has an unfortunate habit of offering to ‘translate’ from a completely unrelated language, but I haven’t figured out how to switch that off.

If my coding skills went beyond ‘dummies’ level, I’d love to add some detail, for example identifying the language of the item, or adding some other metadata. Any computer scientist or amateur programmer interested in volunteering?

So if you’d like to receive a new book every day from the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, follow @LAAL_bot now on Twitter! Thanks so much to @wragge for making the process possible for novice coders.

Using Kriol books with Indigenous students – part 2

Liz Clarkson is a year 9 teacher at Marrara Christian College in Darwin. At the end of 2017 she experimented with using Kriol books from the Living Archive with her class of Indigenous students. Here she describes how she used the materials the second time – see Part 1 for how she initiated the activity the week before.

The following week the groups followed the same instruction sheet for the Kriol text Bog La Mad (Bogged in the mud) from the Living Archive. I had downloaded the book from the website this time and it was much easier to click through the pages than working directly online. This was great as the pictures are lovely and help with understanding as well.

Our most confident Kriol speaker became our ‘consultant,’ so as we worked through the text she corrected as she saw fit, which gave her the role of ‘teacher.’ Then later we compared our translations with the English text that was provided on the last page of the book. That was enlightening for all of us to see if a sentence had been translated with different words or different meaning or perhaps in a more poetic and descriptive way. For example, the translation in the book had ‘exhausted’ but we had used the words ‘weak’ and ‘tired’ which were more literal translations of the text.

Examples of colour-coding and translations of Bog la Mad, with the translation from the book.

Because of the difficulties with the lower group the previous week, I didn’t put the students with lower literacy in a group. Instead I went around to each of them individually while the others went on with their reading activities. With each of them I read through the story in Kriol, they listened and told me what it meant. We discussed the meanings of some  different words, and I asked them to give me an oral summary of the story. We used this activity as a basis for comprehension and forming sentences in English based on the Kriol.

In summary here’s what I got out of the activity as a teacher:

  • It was a useful diagnostic tool which helped me understand which students understand how to use articles and prepositions in Standard Australian English.
  • It showed how students are influenced by their first language.
  • It helped me understand better which students could understand Kriol as a common language even though it wasn’t their mother tongue.
  • It was interesting to see low literacy students able to listen to Kriol and translate it orally with good accuracy.
  • I could experience being the student, as the students could teach pronunciation and meaning to the teacher. This was fun and empowering for the students.

What did the students get out of it?

  • Students learnt that there are lots of stories written in Aboriginal languages (not just told).
  • Students who were reasonably literate in English could soon get used to how to read Kriol as they were familiar with Kriol sounds and could use English reading skills to decode Kriol.
  • Students were able to see how words can be translated in different ways, and see how the grammar of Kriol differs from English.
  • It was fun to do an activity that placed value on Aboriginal languages and authors and stories. Students were excited to look up the Living Archive for stories in other languages they knew better or from their home communities.

This is the worksheet used in the class: Instructions for using LAAL books

Do you have a story to share about using materials from the Living Archive? Contact us and we can publish it here, with links from our social media sites.

Using Kriol books with Indigenous students – part 1

Liz Clarkson is a year 9 teacher at Marrara Christian College in Darwin. At the end of 2017 she experimented with using Kriol books from the Living Archive with her class of Indigenous students. Here she describes how she used the materials the first time – see Part 2 for how she revised the activity for the group the following week.

My year 9 class consists of students from Minyerri, Beswick, Yarralin, Belyuen and Maningrida. Their literacy in English is not strong, and I wasn’t sure whether they would all be able to understand Kriol but I thought there was a good chance they would relate to Kriol because of the common usage of Aboriginal English. This did seem to be the case and most students did respond to it. We read the story Grin Brog (Green Frog) in Kriol and also watched another video of The Christmas Story in Kriol and they really responded well to both.

One student who seemed to relate the least was from Belyuen where they don’t speak Kriol. But interestingly enough, another student from the same community could understand it and responded really positively.

There were two groups, one more literate than the other. The first group worked through the instruction questions fairly successfully. We read the story together. One student who was confident in Kriol was able to decipher it even though she was not used to reading Kriol. She said some of the words were different to what she was used to, probably because these books were published in Barunga and use the local variety of Kriol. Each student was able to discuss the meaning in English. We looked for Kriol words which repeated in the story and then wrote down what those words were in English.

coloured_textThe students all seemed attracted to different tasks but were all engaged. One student colour coded a number of words – colouring all the same words one colour and working out what those words were. Although they all translated one or two sentences, one student enjoyed going on with this and worked hard to write down translations for the whole text. I could see from his writing that he struggled to notice when articles and prepositions were needed in English. Another student was not keen to write but orally worked on translations with me. She was able to switch easily to the correct use of articles and prepositions.

This was an interesting diagnostic tool for me to see who was switching confidently and who struggled to recognise differences between Kriol and English. I would try this activity earlier in the year next time so I could include some of these aspects in my program planning.

With the lower group, concentration and behaviour was an issue. We sat on the floor with clipboards. It was hard to use the digital version of the book as we were on the website trying to view it instead of downloading, which lets you click through the images more easily. The lesson with the lower group was a little less successful as there was one student who was happy to copy the translations but he wasn’t really learning through it. Another student who was not keen to read or write was happy to listen to me read the Kriol and he could tell me what it meant. This group found it hard to concentrate on what they might learn from the language exercise.

Liz works with a student in her class at Mararra (photo courtesy of ABC)

Go to Part 2 to read about the second class using Kriol resources, and Liz’s reflections about what she and the students learned from the activity.

Little J & Big Cuz

Little J Big Cuz Logo

In case you missed it last year, Little J and Big Cuz was a wonderful cartoon series on NITV, reported as being “Australia’s first animated show to feature Indigenous Australians and their culture.”  There are adaptations in some Indigenous languages.

The website includes a comprehensive list of supporting resources for educators, and several resources from the Living Archive. The episode on Transformation lists several titles for Foundation Years in HASS to support learning from the show.

The Living Archive project team is delighted to be included in such a fantastic resource.

Testimonial from Boarding Training Australia

Jenny Florisson from Boarding Training Australia tells about how she uses the materials in the Living Archive in her work.

LogoI have been using the Living Archive for a long time in my Training work with Boarding schools. My husband Steve and I do Certificate IV training all around Australia for Boarding school staff, particularly those with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. One of the Units that Houseparents and Boarding supervisors study in the training we do is called Promote Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural safety. We believe that

“Respecting, valuing and understanding Aboriginal ways of using English is a significant step in respecting, valuing and understanding the identity and self-esteem of these children.”  Dr Diana Eades

For some staff we train, when we look at the books on the Living Archive website, this is the first time they have seen books written in Kriol and other Aboriginal languages. We encourage Boarding staff to celebrate the languages of their Indigenous students, and to have stories and books available in Indigenous languages for students to read. To value a young person’s home language is vital. Many Aboriginal students speak several languages and some have had the opportunity to learn to read them.

Thri BiligutI have particularly enjoyed the Kriol stories and the students have a lot of laughs teaching me to read the story together. My favourite is “Thri Biligut” in Kriol, written and illustrated by Lily Bennett (Barunga).

I have felt very privileged to sit with a young girl in her Boarding Residence in a remote Aboriginal community while she read me a story in Murrinh-Patha on the computer from the Living Archive website. Her pride and enjoyment at reading to me in her language was very obvious.

I encourage Boarding staff to download the free books from the Living Archive and to print them out for their students to enjoy reading in their own language.

If you have a story to tell about using the Living Archive, contact us at livingarchive@cdu.edu.au 

ASA/ITIC conference 2017

Reflecting on a busy and challenging week in Melbourne at the Australian Society of Archivists conference, and processing some of the learnings and connections made. This was my first archiving conference, and I realised how much I don’t know about this field. But I was interested in the way the conference positioned itself as a challenge to its own field. The conference description stated:

The program will explore questions on the diversity of our collections, our profession and our audiences, as well as exploring the impact and potential of information technologies in indigenous communities and on traditional knowledge.

Who are collections for? Who do they represent? Who should hold them, manage access and use, and communicate content? We know that collections in the GLAMR (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Records) sectors contain representations of many different identities – cultural, ethnic, religious, political and sexual amongst many others – at points in time and over time. How should these myriad worlds be reflected to the wider community? What systemic changes are required to ensure new professionals entering the sector are a more diverse, broadly representative group than those who have come before?

The Melbourne conference seeks to examine the commonalities and differences between sectors, collections and communities, as well as the many different worlds represented within them. The concept of Diverse Worlds – inclusive of the non-binary, different and divergent – also challenges notions of cohesion and a singular professional identity. It recognises that our community is not fully representative, and the collections for which we are responsible are not discoverable, accessible or understandable to many. We need to ask how we can go beyond mere consultation and engagement, and question whether supporting true diversity involves relinquishing authority, custodianship and control.

The two keynote speakers for the ASA both distanced themselves from the archival profession, sharing frustrations with the lack of transformative power in the field as it currently stands. Verne Harris from the Nelson Mandela Foundation spoke about the power of transformational dialogue and its reliance on archives, giving examples from the South African experience, where “the struggle relies on the archive” such as in land restitution claims, outcomes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, state corruption, and the growth of inequality. He addressed the rhetoric of ‘hope’ but instead said that he has faith sustained by stories found in archive.

The closing keynote speaker, Jarrett Drake, in solidarity with his compatriots’ protests against racial injustice, did his whole address on one knee. He spoke of his disillusionment with the profession of archiving, and how the claims of diversity within the Society of American Archivists are ‘dangerous, delusional and disingenuous.’ I’m guessing it’s not the first time he has spoken about the need to dismantle white supremacy to a room full of mostly white archivists and researchers. My hope is that his PhD research will lead to something that will shake up the profession in the same way that Paolo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” shook up education in its day.

The plenary on the second morning focused on Evaluating the impact of Indigenous Collections: Going way beyond metrics project in NZ. 3 of the speakers focused on a recent on the impact of digitised material in Te Reo Maori archival collections, where much consultation with Maori community members led to an online survey of users, which revealed some of the practices of the users of these archival materials, and one of the speakers referred to “the growing democratisation of what was once rare knowledge.” It was good to hear about the ‘other end’ of the archiving process, how the materials that have been archived are used and what impact the process of archiving can have. It’s difficult to measure, and there are no standards for how to do it for Indigenous materials. Perhaps one outcome of this session is more discussion on what would be involved in identifying such standards?

I had the opportunity to present the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages at the session on ‘Web and Mobile Evaluation‘, where a panel of experts in usability/UX (User Experience), accessibility issues, and archives and technology issues gave feedback. One of the panel couldn’t access our site at all (an audience member suggested it was blocked at the workplace rather than a technical issue for our website, which has been working fine), but his feedback on the other sites motivated me to address issues of accessibility in our site. The UX expert only looked at the home page and didn’t get to the Archive at all – her comment was that “maybe because I’m a millennial, I ignore anything on the left or right of the page” so she missed the “click here to enter the archive” button. This means we should change where the URLs point to, so others don’t have the same experience and miss all the fun of exploring the archive itself.It was also recommended that the map instructions remain visible while users are navigating the map (currently they disappear and the selected language or community fills that space). Happily the third panel member was very positive about our site, having worked in remote NT schools and recognising the value of our project.

The third day (ITIC) focused on the legacy of the late Dr Joe Gumbula, a senior Yolŋu songman who was also involved in important research to enhance knowledge of Indigenous archives and collections in Australia and internationally. Members of his family ‘smoked’ the participants in the grounds of Melbourne University, before a personal and moving keynote by Professor Aaron Corn about his mentor, father and colleague. This was accompanied by yiḏaki and singing by his brother and other Yolŋu musicians. After the later lecture, several people spoke warmly about the man and his legacy.

As usual at conferences, it’s a great opportunity to network with others working in the same area, and I made some good connections and came back with lots of business cards and notes of things, references or people to follow up.

 

Visit to Ngukurr community

Living Archive project manager Cathy Bow reports on her visit to Ngukurr.

It was such a delight to visit Ngukurr and spend a week with the wonderful staff at the Ngukurr Language Centre. I was able to go and meet a number of people in the community and show them the materials in the Living Archive, and talk about how they might be used in community.

As it says on their website:
Ngukurr is a large Aboriginal community in southern Arnhem Land, situated on Ngalakgan land. Formerly a mission, the community population covers 8-10 heritage languages that are all now endangered. The main language spoken in Ngukurr today is Kriol but within the community, traditional languages are held in high esteem. The Ngukurr Language Centre is a small, independent, non-profit organisation. The goal of the Ngukurr Language Centre is to revitalise, document, teach and promote the traditional languages of the community via a range of community-based language programs.

I had wonderful chats with the staff at the language centre, who are all passionate about their languages.

Grant Thompson and Cherry Daniels and I looked at the Marra and Ngandi materials that were produced at the Language Centre and are now available on the Living Archive. They enjoyed reading the stories and looking at the photos. As a senior elder, Cherry was able to give permission for all the materials in those languages to be made public on our website, even those which don’t name the contributors.

Angelina Joshua has her own story to tell about how her passion for Marra language ended up as an award-winning website for SBS called “My Grandmother’s Lingo.” I had the pleasure of watching Angelina teach a language class to a group of year 2 students from Ngukurr Community School – they were completely captivated by her, and were able to put together short sentences in Marra about animals and their own totems.

Dean Austin Bara looked at the materials in Wubuy language from Numbulwar and considered how he could use them in teaching Wubuy at the school. He’s also keen to make his own new materials that will eventually go on the Archive site.

I showed some of the Kriol materials to teachers and others from the school, who enjoyed reading the language that is most widely spoken in Ngukurr. Native speakers of either English or Kriol were able to read the stories, as Kriol is written very phonetically and the stories in the Archive are easy and fun to read.

Talking with a number of people around the community, we found very positive attitudes to Kriol, and everyone we spoke to agreed that non-Indigenous people living in Ngukurr should learn to understand and use Kriol to build better relationships in community.

I was pleased to be able to attend the Ngukurr Festival, where the Language Centre was selling water bottles with the word for ‘water’ in all the local languages. The bottles were filled with local bush medicine, and were especially popular with the ‘munanga’ (non-Indigenous) in the community.