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.
The Living Archive project has a number of items digitised but not yet available on our website. This is usually because we haven’t yet found the named creators of the material, to ask their permission to include them. While we already have permission from the copyright holders (usually the NT Department of Education or another organisation), the project team wants to go beyond this and make sure that the creators are happy for their materials to be available on our open access website under the Creative Commons license.
It has been difficult to find people, especially in communities that didn’t have bilingual education programs, where we don’t have such strong connections, so we often rely on local people or regular visitors to these communities to help us get permission forms signed.
Working with local linguist, Erika Charola, we’ve been working to find a process that would be suitable for the community at Kalkarindji/Daguragu so that we could make public a collection of Gurindji materials. Our project manager had the privilege of visiting the community last year during Freedom Day 2016, the 50th anniversary of the Wave Hill walkoff, but with all the celebrations that weekend it wasn’t appropriate to find people to sign forms. We printed copies of the digitised materials we had, and sent them to Erika at Kalkarindji school to show around and ask people what they thought about having these materials on the Internet.
One of the local language workers went around and found some of the people and got their permission, but it was very time consuming. Erika had the idea to have all the printed books at the Arts Centre and invite people to come and have a look, and have permission forms there for people to sign. She posted this on their Facebook account:
In the leadup to Freedom Day this year, we got permission for a number of books to go ‘public’ on the Living Archive website. You can see these books here, and we hope more will become available soon.
Getting permission for materials is one of the most challenging parts of growing the Living Archive, so we really appreciate the help we get from people in community. If you’d like to help us make more materials available, and you have connections in some remote NT communities, contact us to find out more about how you can be involved.
Each year the National NAIDOC Committee selects a theme for NAIDOC week (first week of July). This year’s theme of “Our Languages Matter” focused on “the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages” aiming “to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.” (http://www.naidoc.org.au/2017-national-naidoc-theme).
Professor Michael Christie introduces Dr Waymamba Gaykamaŋu
The other exciting event of the week was the launch of the book “History of Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory, edited by one of the chief investigators of the Living Archive project, Dr Brian Devlin, along with Dr Samantha Disbray and Nancy Devlin. This important book has just been published by Springer, and was launched by the wonderful Professor Tom Calma, who back in 2014 also launched the Living Archive project in Darwin. This week’s book launch was a lovely celebration with many of the contributing authors in attendance, and others interested in issues surrounding bilingual education. Professor Calma even singled out the final chapter in the book, written by the Living Archive team, about the history and current status of the many books published in Literature Production Centres during the era of bilingual education, and their journey to digital formats on the Living Archive website.
Also this week our project manager Cathy Bow presented her proposal for PhD research into the role of digital language resources in Australian Indigenous languages, which will focus on the Living Archive project as well as the Digital Shell project.
On Saturday afternoon as part of the Darwin Fringe Festival we enjoyed another Treasure Language storytelling event, this time focusing on Indigenous language. After some initial talking about Why Languages Matter, we heard some traditional stories from Magdalen Kelantumama of the Tiwi islands told a creation story. Magdalen is a wonderful storyteller, and there are lots of her stories in the Living Archive, if you’d like to read some other stories like this. Then Yirriṉiṉba Dhurrkay told a story in Dhaŋu language, translated by Sylvia Ŋulpinditj , then an elder from Dhalinbuy told another story, which was accompanied by a buŋgul (traditional dance), which got many members of the audience up and dancing. What an incredible opportunity to experience traditional forms of storytelling and ceremonial activity in a theatrical space. Can’t wait to see more photos soon.
On social media and other media we had a hard time keeping up with all the activities around the NT, much less nationally. I won’t even try to list them all but I do want to highlight just two. There was an article on The Conversation in Warlpiri language, about the significance of the Jukurrpa for Warlpiri people, and ICTV showed a documentary called Talking in the Top End about last year’s Kriol workshop.
Even though NAIDOC week is officially over for the year, there are still a few related events coming up. At CDU’s Northern Institute this week we will hear from Professor Michael Walsh about how “Indigenous languages are good for your health“, and next month our colleagues from CDU’s School of Indigenous Knowledges and Public Policy will hold a language-focused event, and there is some work happening to celebrate some of the Indigenous language champions who have contributed so much over many years. So stay tuned for more celebrations of why Indigenous languages really do matter!
In her preschool transition class, the children attentively sing along in Warlpiri to Marlu Witalpa (Little Kangaroo). It’s a seemingly simple children’s song about a kangaroo looking for its mother. But with its complex expressions and traditional hand signs, it’s also an effective tool for learning.
Nancy has introduced generations of children to school routines, literacy, and early years knowledge and skills all in a language they understand: Warlpiri. At the same time, they learn oral English from another teacher in a staged curriculum. As they master some English language, they are introduced to English literacy.
Learning in a language you understand
This dual language approach is based on research showing that many concepts are best learned in the language that the learner understands.
And mastery in first language supports second language learning, success in literacy and academic achievement in both languages.
Increasingly, international and Australian research and policy make strong links between recognition and use of first language and cultural knowledge, and student identity, wellbeing and education outcomes.
Teachers in Warlpiri-English and other bilingual schools, such as Yirrkala school, have long worked to innovatively blend traditional and contemporary knowledge.
The overarching aim of this dual language focus is to provide young people with the skills they will need as bicultural adults in the modern world. This is relevant in sectors such as the arts, land management, interpreting in legal and health settings and education, to name just a few.
The importance of bilingual education was recognised more than 50 years ago when, in 1961, politician Kim Beazley Senior saw a classroom like Nancy’s at Hermannsburg school in central Australia, where children were learning in Arrernte and English.
The success of this classroom, compared with its English-only counterparts, inspired him.
Later, as education minister in the newly elected Whitlam government in 1972, he oversaw the launch of the Northern Territory Bilingual Education program. These early days and the decades that followed are documented in a new volume, History of Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory.
At its most ambitious in 1988, 24 remote schools had programs in English and 19 Aboriginal languages. Local people were directly involved in the education of their children, and champions for schooling in remote communities.
Many Aboriginal people, like Nancy, often of the first or second generation in their families to attend school, were supported by their school and the department to obtain professional qualifications and leadership opportunities.
These opportunities were provided by combinations of in-community on-the-job learning, intensive courses at Batchelor College, and support from travelling Batchelor College lecturers.
However, in the intervening years, changes to accreditation regimes and changes to Batchelor College funding have meant that these opportunities are now rarely available to Indigenous people in remote communities.
Sadly, there are fewer qualified Aboriginal teachers in remote Australia today than in the 1980s.
Indigenous teachers worked side by side with non-Indigenous teachers in bilingual teaching teams. This required professional development in the skills of team teaching, and teaching English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EALD).
Non-local teachers were trained, supported on the job and/or accessed professional learning in these skills.
This support was not only essential for young non-local teachers to acquire these skills, it also provided them with social and intellectual support that helped them stay longer on communities.
The need for trained English language teachers and structured EALD programs in remote schools has been raised in virtually every report since the 1990s.
The lack of these skilled professionals continues to hamper Aboriginal students’ learning English and academic success across the Northern Territory.
Bilingual language approach creates jobs
The dual language focus created jobs in remote communities, not just in teaching.
With a great need for written materials to support the program, Literacy Production Centres were established, with a prodigious output of books. These included fiction, history, science and reference works in Aboriginal languages. Recently much of this has been made digitally available in theLiving Archive of Aboriginal Languages.
Despite efforts to promote the dual language focus and its importance to communities, it remained controversial, and subject to shifts in policy and resourcing. Ideological disagreements often drowned out evidence and the opportunity to review and improve practice.
Importance of community involvement
While much has changed since 1972, recent research shows the continued importance of community involvement in schools.
Now in 2017, the Northern Territory Education Department is preparing policy and developing curriculum for teaching Aboriginal languages, including the remaining bilingual programs, based on the new National Curriculum.
These moves recognise the value of Aboriginal languages in education and employment.
But policy and curriculum on their own are not enough. Aboriginal classrooms need more Nancy Oldfields, more trained teachers from their own communities who speak their own languages. The Western Australian Department of Education has a practical and innovative model to achieve this.
Classrooms need more trained teachers who are skilled in teaching oral and written English to children who speak other languages. And they need these teachers to be skilled in working together as professional teams.
This is where Australia needs to invest in Aboriginal education – in teacher education, professional learning and team-teaching, and excellence in languages education.
This is a guest post from Barbara Martin, Samantha Watson, and Gretel Macdonald from Yuendumu School. They sent us a fantastic video produced from a book available in the Living Archive collection, and we asked them to share how they made it, so others can try as well.
Of course an audiobook can’t replace the skill of a Warlpiri teacher, but it is still a valuable resource. How did we make the audiobook…? Well we started by choosing a book that is popular with kids and adults. We had a think about how we would put the images and the text together using Adobe Spark, and decided that we wanted to add a few more images to bring this story to life. Otherwise the hungry mulyurlinji (perentie) just eats each lizard he meets and the story is all over too quickly!
That’s the great thing about making an audiobook – you can be the director and be as creative as you want to be. Once we had all the images figured out, and Barbara had learned from us younger ladies how to use an iPad along the way, we had to record our voices reading the book. This was challenging, and Barbara had to help us younger ladies to practice, and practice and practice (!) and think about the rhythm of Warlpiri, and how we would use our voices to play different characters. Now that we have made one audiobook we want to make more, and most importantly we want to get kids at Yuendumu School involved in making their own audiobooks.
You can also view this on the Living Archive website – go to http://laal.cdu.edu.au/record/cdu:34270/info/ and click on WATCH (go full screen to get the whole effect!) And send us your ebooks or audiobooks when you’ve created them.
We’ve just had a new article published which shows how materials from the Living Archive can be used in all learning areas of the Australian Curriculum. It addresses the cross-curriculum priority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, which need to be incorporated in all subjects according to the Australian Curriculum.
The article is open access, and free to download here.
We’ll soon create a space on this site where teachers can select their learning area and find examples that can be used, or ideas of what materials to look for.
Bow, C. (2016). Using authentic language resources to incorporate Indigenous knowledges across the Australian Curriculum. Learning Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: New Connections in Education Research], 20, 20-39. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18793/LCJ2016.20.03.
The promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures as a cross-curriculum priority in the new Australian Curriculum provides both a challenge and an opportunity for teachers and teacher educators. The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages contains authentic language materials which can assist in resourcing and supporting teachers to meet this challenge across all areas of the curriculum, and to encourage connections with Indigenous cultural authorities.
As head of languages at Meriden school (Strathfield NSW) until 2015, I was very grateful to discover the materials available for the Warlpiri and Anmatyerr languages on the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages website. The school has a relationship with the Ti Tree community in the Northern Territory and there is a group of students from the community studying at Meriden. These students bring a rich cultural and linguistic heritage to our school community, which I am always interested in helping them share with the broader school population. When I showed the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages to the Ti Tree students, they were really interested to see stories and books produced in their language by people they know. We were able to download a couple of the stories and have them bound into booklets. These were used to help students share stories in their language.
Sincere thanks to all who have contributed to this site, from the hard-working community members to the site creators and administrators.
We heard presentations from a number of CoEDL researchers, including work on individual differences in language development, the role of symbolic play in language acquisition, some research into first language acquisition in Papua New Guinea, and the role of prosody and other phonological features in language acquisition in Malay and Barunga Kriol. We heard about projects in communities such as Wadeye and Kukatja where English is not spoken much outside the classroom, and in communities such as Jilkminggan and Gunnedah where traditional languages are no longer strong. We explored some of the challenges inherent in language revival programs, the role of Indigenous language in the Maths classroom, the effects of otitis media on Indigenous children’s language acquisition, how print literacy may impact learning Standard Australian English, the impact on children in remote Indigenous communities of NAPLAN testing and English language assessment more generally, and the ‘affordances’ of language programs in the context of the Australian Curriculum. It was also interesting to hear about some contexts that don’t neatly fit into general approaches to language acquisition, such as the complex linguistic ecology of communities where neither Standard English nor traditional languages are spoken or taught, and what that means for contact languages such as Kriol, and literacy practices outside of the school in endangered language communities.
A public event gave opportunities to share about wonderful work on the Warlpiri theme cycle and the investments in education made in Warlpiri communities, then discussion and demonstration of some language apps for Indigenous languages. These included community involvement in the development of Memrise for languages of Tennant Creek, and making short videos using Powtoon for Gamilaraay, some other potentially useful game apps, innovative means of testing phonological awareness in Yolngu Matha, and the incredible work that’s gone into the creation of the world’s first Australian indigenous language app Tjinari in Ngaanyatjarra.
The final afternoon was spent brainstorming the issues raised throughout the previous day and a half, focusing on:
where we want education of Indigenous children to be in five years time;
how does our existing research fit into that
how can we engage with, learn from, and work more closely with policy makers, teachers, principals and other education workers about what research is needed
how can our research contribute to teacher professional development
how can this research be translated and impact on those who
implement policy, i.e. teachers and principals
CoEDL has a wealth of experience in its researchers and projects, and can play an important role in this space. It was great to network with so many keen and interesting researchers, and we look forward to seeing where this discussion takes us next.
The schedule moved from ‘big picture’ to local activities, starting with a presentation from ACARA about the national framework for Indigenous languages in the Australian Curriculum. Having established the framework, it’s now up to the different jurisdictions and schools to work out how to implement it. The framework aims to be inclusive but also deliberately generic, to allow for the many different contexts in which it will be implemented. Examples of implementation will be posted to the ACARA website.
Following a presentation about the function and purpose of First Languages Australia, presentations from each state or territory (except Tasmania) gave an overview of some of the activities, opportunities and challenges in each location. It was noted that the publication of the framework “has been a game changer for Indigenous languages in schools,” and each state is implementing it in different ways according to their populations and existing curricula. The value of language as a tool for social, cultural and economic development, including workforce development was highlighted, as well as the importance of community engagement in language programs.
Presentations about the MATSITI program to get more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers in schools, and from various training providers demonstrated the range of programs available for professional development and qualifications for teachers of Indigenous languages. (I was able to share briefly about the Living Archive alongside some of the training courses offered at CDU through ACIKE which focus on Indigenous languages and linguistics.)There are some interesting things happening in Alice Springs, with senior secondary students taking on Translation Tracks through VET in schools, looking at how to translate ‘real world’ documents, and visiting workplaces where language skills are needed. We also heard about the MILE program at Sydney Uni, which uses the resources from students’ own communities, and the Cert IV Teaching an Endangered Aboriginal Language which started in SA but is now available through Muurrbay in NSW. The AnTEP Aṉangu Tertiary Education Program from the APY lands, and the Gumbaynggir tutors program, opportunities through VACL, all reflected one participant’s comments “it’s not just language we’re teaching, it’s all about culture, our ancestors, our land, all together.”
On the second morning, we heard from school programs doing interesting and important things, and some of the challenges they face. Longstanding programs such as mother tongue education in the APY Lands, newer ones such as the Lurra program in several languages in Maningrida (where the point was made that learning in language gave the children a chance to be successful where they might struggle in English), Warlpiri and Anmatyerr in TiTree, efforts in Broome to create 20 fluent speakers of Yawuru in the next five years, Arrernte teching in Ltyentye Apurte, the strong history of language at Yipirinya School, and the challenges facing Indigenous language teachers in WA.
What emerged throughout the program was a series of ‘themes’ which were then explored in smaller groups, and issues were identified for each theme. In the final workshop, small groups aimed to write ‘one sentence’ which would sum up the situation and give focus to what is required. Key questions were addressed such as:
who will teach these languages?
who will fund the great ideas?
how can teachers be recognised and supported when their numbers are so small?
The value of events such as this is in bringing together groups of people with similar interests but working in very different contexts. The specifics are very diverse, but the challenges are just as vast. From languages with no speakers being revived from documents, to highly multilingual communities struggling to learn via English, the common thread was that each community was committed to passing on their knowledge to the next generation.
Besides the important issues discussed from the front, the support and encouragement felt among all attendees was very encouraging. In the many conversations during breaks, connections were renewed, relationships created, ideas shared, notes compared, resources shown, contact details swapped, stories told, and support demonstrated. People involve in teaching Indigenous languages can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from support networks, so opportunities such as this are invaluable for connecting people and reminding everyone that they’re not alone, and that what they’re doing is important and valuable.
Thanks to Faith and the staff at First Languages Australia for bringing this group together, and to Karina and Simone for keeping it moving, and to everyone for being willing to share and support.
The Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre was a hub of linguistic activity from 1991 to 2010. Run by the Diwurruwurru-jaru Aboriginal Corporation, it served all the Indigenous languages of the Katherine region, creating resources and running teaching programs in schools. All the materials in the library have been locked away since the centre closed in 2010, under the auspices of Mimi Arts, and last week a team from CDU (Cathy Bow and Trish Joy) and Western Sydney University (Sarah Cutfield) had the opportunity to audit the collection for archiving purposes.
The books and videos and other items on the shelves were stored in good order, but the rest of the room had become a bit of a dumping ground for boxes of paperwork and random AV equipment, so our first job was to clear that out.
Trish looking for treasures
Plenty of admin paperwork
When we were able to access the bookshelves and two compactus units containing the resources, we found them in very good order. Everything was catalogued and stored in alphabetical order on the shelves. On one wall was shelves of video materials (both VHS and DVD), one compactus had text materials of languages of the region (separated into ‘Kriol’, ‘Eastside’ and ‘Westside’), and the other compactus had multimedia resources (cassettes, CDs, DVDs, minidisks, DV tapes, etc), and a great collection of language and linguistic resources for Aboriginal languages more widely, including languages of other regions, reference materials, etc.
Sample shelf of Gurindji materials
Shelf of multimedia materials
Sarah opening the catalogue
There was a Mac G4 computer which we weren’t sure would even switch on. Fortunately it did, and contained a catalogue of materials, but we couldn’t export it or find any way to extract the data, so that’s been taken back to Darwin to see if we can do it there. The library catalogue will be very useful to cross-check with what we found, and help us identify what material may already exist in digital form.
We created spreadsheets to record basic metadata for all the items we found and filled them out over the next few days. Trish listed over 300 video materials in 30 languages, Cathy documented 560 text materials in 35 languages, and Sarah (who used to work in the language centre) had the job of working through boxes of ‘uncatalogued’ or ‘miscellaneous’ materials – some of which needed language identification.
It’s a fantastic collection of materials, including resources produced by the Language Centre itself (readers, story books, teaching resources, etc), plus reference materials (grammars, dictionaries, academic articles), video footage of local events, recordings of old people who have now passed away, collections of photos, reports, flashcards, games – all incredibly valuable for languages which have few speakers left.
Once we collate all our lists and cross-check with the catalogue, the next step is to identify what materials have already been digitised (or were born digital), to help us prioritise what materials still need to be digitised. Perhaps some of the linguists and language workers who used to work there have kept digital copies of some materials that they could repatriate? Perhaps the G4 computer has some useful files on it? We know there are some materials digitised in the Living Archive collection, and AIATSIS may have some also. (Please contact us if you have or know where we can find any digital files of materials produced at the Centre.)
Mimi Arts manager Dennis Stokes
Special thanks to the lovely Dennis Stokes, manager of Mimi Arts, who made us very welcome in our task, and has exciting plans to reopen the Language Centre and continue the valuable work it did in the past. We also acknowledge Barbara Ambjerg Pedersen, the former manager, who kept the materials safe and in good conditions for years while the centre was not functioning. Also thanks to Caroline Jones from CoEDL for initiating the process of auditing the materials, and to Trish and Sarah for doing the hard yards auditing all those precious materials.