Category Archives: Activities

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.


NAIDOC week 2017 wrap-up

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.” (

In Darwin it was a busy week for us at the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, as we worked with the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University to organise an event to celebrate Why our languages matter with special guest speaker Dr Waymamba Gaykamaŋu. Over 65 people gathered to hear her speak about Yolŋu language and culture, and after a break for a cup of tea and a chat, other Indigenous researchers and authorities gave their thoughts on why languages matter, including Dr Payi Linda Ford of the Mak Mak Maranungu group (who was also interviewed on ABC radio about the event), Richard Fejo of Larrakia nation, Yirriṉiṉba Dhurrkay of Raki Mala research, Julie Turner from Cherbourg, and Kathy Guthadjaka from Gäwa. We also got to enjoy seeing Gotha’s work with the Wiggles, where she taught Dorothy the Dinosaur some words of Warramiri and they sang a song together, and when Henry the Octopus visited Gäwa. The ABC took an interest in this, and interviewed Gotha on the radio

Payi Linda Ford with Yirriṉiṉba Dhurrkay

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.

And that was just the events we got to attend, though we were very disappointed to miss out on the launch of Batchelor Institute’s CALL collection, with whom we’ve had a close and fruitful association (check out the collection here), plus the pop-up Arrernte language classroom in Alice Springs, and the NTLibrary’s wiki event, CDU’s NAIDOC Night at the Movies, and even a NAIDOC week march through the streets of Darwin.

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!

Languages and Education in Indigenous Australia workshop

This week I attended a workshop on Languages and Education in Indigenous Australia, hosted by the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language at ANU. It was an interesting counterpoint to the previous week’s event hosted by First Languages Australia in Adelaide, which focused on the implementation of the draft framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages in the Australian Curriculum and what was happening in various contexts. The Canberra event looked at language acquisition in Indigenous contexts more broadly, including children learning English and contacts languages as well as their own language.

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
    • determine policy
    • 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.

National Indigenous Language Teaching and Employment Forum report

For the last two days I’ve been attending the First Languages Australia National Indigenous Languages Teaching and Employment Forum in Adelaide. Around 100 people gathered from all around Australia to share ideas about this important topic.

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.

Katherine Language Centre audit

KRALC_signThe 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.

Unlocking a mystery

Decades after many of the language materials created at Gunbalanya were sent to the tip (only to be rescued by the local missionary and later sent to the Living Archive), a locked filing cabinet in the school (with no sign of a key) remained. Sue Reaburn was present at its unlocking and shared the story and photos with us.

Although no one knew what the filing cabinet contained, it was known to contain treasures of the past. To be sure it contained nothing secret or sacred, Joseph, an elder, took each drawer down the back of the room and systematically checked through it, removing anything he thought was inappropriate for full public viewing.

Among the things it contained was copies of old mission records, discs of images from the past with catalogues, old books some of them very rare related to Gunbalanya. While much of it had been through a flood, that which was considered worthy of preserving digitally was bought back to Darwin to be digitised either by LAAL or the Aboriginal Education Heritage Program. Digital copies of everything are being returned to the community, the final resting place of the important historical material is still being decided by the Gunbalanya School Council.

Gunbalanya_filing_cabinet (2)  Gunbalanya_filing_cabinet (4)

Gunbalanya_filing_cabinet (3) Gunbalanya_filing_cabinet (5)

Creative Commons workshop

Investigating the use of Creative Commons licenses with Indigenous language materials Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University
March 29-30, 2016
Workshop report

Thanks to a small grant from the Faculty of Law, Education, Business and Arts (LEBA) at Charles Darwin University, granted to the Northern Institute (Cathy Bow) and the School of Law (David Price), an expert in the area of Copyright law and Creative Commons was invited to facilitate a two-day workshop in Darwin in March.

Our invited guest, Dr Anne Fitzgerald is a barrister who has practised, taught and researched in the areas of intellectual property law, internet/e-commerce law and international trade law for more than 20 years. She was a key part of  Creative Commons Australia’s engagement with the Australian public sector,  which resulted in Creative Commons licences being adopted as the default copyright licence by the Australian federal government. On this visit to Darwin, Anne was accompanied by another experienced IP and crown lawyer, Neale Hooper, who has also been heavily involved in the Australian arm of Creative Commons and its implementation across government departments.

Workshop participants were invited from partner agencies of the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages project (Northern Territory Library, NT Department of Education, Batchelor Institute, CDU Library), as well as other interested parties (ACIKE, ARDS, SIKPP (Yolngu Studies), iTalk Library, NAAJA, Northern Institute).  There were 23 participants on Tuesday and 16 on Wednesday.

Dr Fitzgerald presented a helpful overview of Creative Commons (CC) and the six CC licenses available, and how they align with copyright law and facilitate the remix and reuse of digital materials. There was information about how the licenses have been used across different sectors in government and research, and some cases where the validity of the licenses had been tested and approved. There was a demonstration of some of the tools available for facilitating the use of CC licenses and appropriate attribution. David Price from CDU’s School of Law gave a useful overview of copyright law and how it relates to Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP), which was highly relevant to the participants.

The remainder of the workshop focused on specific case studies, where participants were able to share from their own experience some of the challenges and concerns they have about using CC licenses. Cathy Bow shared in detail about the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, and the challenges involved in the decision to use a CC-BY-NC-ND license to promote engagement with the materials while respecting their integrity. Kerry Blinco from NT Library presented on their Community Stories project, and tried to separate some issues which are often grouped together, such as copyright, moral rights, ICIP, conditions of use, access control (secret/sacred/sorrow), cultural warning and metadata. Hannah Harper from ARDS presented on the importance of developing a shared vocabulary to discuss issues of ownership and copyright with Yolŋu people, before presenting a particularly interesting case about a film project which raised some thorny issues about ownership and IP. Karen Manton from Batchelor Institute spoke about the CALL collection and their focus on preservation, access, growth, promotion, and supporting community activities to preserve, maintain and revive culture and language practices. She identified some of the concerns they face in the digitisation project and the website project, and their reasons for not using Creative Commons, in order to include specific protocols.

The discussion of specific projects and issues was most helpful, as it connected the general issues of CC and copyright law to specific practices, and the input from two very experienced lawyers in this area was most valuable. There is room within CC licensing to include reference to specific protocols for respecting ICIP, however these protocols are not enforceable by law. Both Anne and Neale pointed out that practice often precedes policy, as was their experience with the implementation of CC licensing with public sector information leading to official announcements about open data in government. As our projects establish best practice, we can create new norms which can then influence government policy. It was agreed that the discussion about these issues should continue, with plans for a conversation circle to meet regularly to enable ongoing work in this space.  There is potential for a larger project exploring how this may happen on a wider scale.

In addition to the two-day workshop, Dr Fitzgerald also presented a public lecture as part of the Open Territory program, hosted by Northern Territory Library and sponsored by the Northern Institute.  The audience came from business, government and education, and were given an overview of how different sectors have used CC licensing to enable the opening of huge quantities of data, and the benefits of this across a number of areas.

Thanks to our presenters, Anne Fitzgerald and Neale Hooper, and all the workshop participants for an excellent event. Special thanks to LEBA for the small grant funding which allowed the event to occur, and to the Northern Institute for their support and assistance.

CC workshop

LAALcomp wrap-up

The competition has closed, the results are in, the winners are announced. Here’s a short recap of the Living Archive’s Digital Story Competition.

UPDATE – listen to ABC Darwin’s report about the competition!

The competition launched in May 2015, thanks to a bequest from a longtime supporter of Indigenous education, who requested that donations to the Living Archive project be made in lieu of flowers at her funeral in December 2014. The project team wanted that money to go to something that would engage people in the stories contained in the archive, so the idea of a competition was birthed.

Many people who look at our archive enjoy seeing the stories, and often ask Can we listen to them? Sadly our project doesn’t have the capacity to record or digitise audio and video files that go with the stories (although we know there are a lot out there!), so we’re always looking for ways to add multimedia recordings. And we know that there are many very creative people around, with access to useful tools to create interactive materials. Since we are creating a living archive, we wanted to make sure that the original story owners approved the entries, so entrants had to get signed permission from the creators.

The entries were slow to come in – not surprisingly with the busyness of the school year – so we extended the deadline by two weeks. In the end we had 13 valid entries. The competition was open to anyone in Australia, but interestingly, almost all came from remote communities in the NT. One was from WA but the teacher had connections with an author in a remote NT community where she used to work, and another designer contacted a community to get permission.

The instructions were very general, allowing any combination of text, image and audio. As a result, the entries represented many different presentation styles, including:

  • a teacher reading a story directly from the book
  • an animated video created by year 3/4 students with narration in English and language
  • a video of children ‘acting out’ parts of a story in the playground
  • a video mixing pages from the book with simple ‘stop-motion’ animation using toys
  • an animated video with English subtitles
  • a recording with props and a bright background, followed by a song
  • a narrated Powerpoint presentation read by the author
  • ibooks with audio components and fantastic graphics
  • a website with animated video and a recording of a class performance at assembly

Three judges were invited to assess the entries:

  • Bruce Pascoe – Indigenous author from Victoria, winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award in 2013, advocate of Indigenous languages
  • Dr Kevin Gillan – Executive Director of Education Partnerships with NT Department of Education
  • Jeanie Bell – Indigenous linguist and senior lecturer at Batchelor Institute

They were asked to judge according to the following criteria:

  • Presentation: The layout and format support the content
  • Usability: the entry is easy to open and view, doesn’t crash or freeze
  • Engagement: The entry is creative and engages the audience
  • Enhancement: The digital story enhances the original PDF
  • Technical skills: The entry makes good use of the available technology
  • Overall: The entry is well-compiled and complete

All the judges spoke highly of the entries they viewed, praising their creativity and the work that went in to creating these multimedia resources. some of their comments include:

  • A very impressive collection of stories brought to life through digital technologies”
  • “The high level of student participation in their development is to be commended.”
  • “Beautifully illustrated and excellent animation”
  • “It was interesting to note the number of entries that used a number of multimedia tools in their approach.”
  • “A fantastic way to engage students, community and school staff in developing a creative approach in the celebration and use of local languages.”
  • “It was a real honour to be asked to watch and listen to these stories”

cdu:31312When the judges’ scores were added up, we found that we had a tie for first place! And surprisingly, both entries were for the same story – a delightful tale of three clams, called 
Ḏiŋ’ Ḏaŋ’ ga Ḏoŋ’
. You can see both entries here – click on the URL (bottom right) for the Shepherdson College entry, and click ‘watch’ (above the cover picture) for the FaFT entry.

Congratulations to the FaFT Playgroup at Galiwinku and Ellemor 8 at Shepherdson College who will share the $1000 prize pool between them.

Thanks to all the entrants for your fantastic contributions.

All the entries are now available here, as well as being added to their corresponding books in the Living Archive.

Nemarluk School visit

mascotAt the invitation of teacher Kristie Moseley, Trish Joy and Cathy Bow from the Living Archive project visited Nemarluk School in Stuart Park. Nemarluk School is a Northern Territory Department of Education and Children’s Services school for children who require specialised and individualised educational programs. Kristie’s class has a number of Indigenous students and she tries to incorporate Indigenous stories and knowledge into her classes as much as possible.


We told the students about the many different languages of the Northern Territory and how even though write with the same letters as English, the words are hard to read if you don’t know how to speak the language. We showed them some Anindilyakwa words, which are really long, and we showed them where Anindilyakwa is spoken on Groote Eylandt on the Living Archive poster map.

an0022Trish then read a story from Groote Eylandt about the Crocodile and Blue Tongue Lizard, which talks about how the animals made their homes but then got into an argument and now they have different habitats.  The story was told by a great old storyteller who has since passed away, and the pictures were drawn by children in schools at Angurugu, Umbakumba and Bickerton Islands.

Nemarluk_10_cropThen the children chose animals and made their own pictures about where the animals live and what they eat, then they shared some of the traditional Aboriginal stories they’d done in class previously.

We looked at some more books on the Living Archive website, showing how they can find books by language or place, and they can download and print the books to look at in class, or their families can look at them on their phones or computers. We showed them where to find the English translation if there is one (usually at the end of the story), and talked about how difficult it can be to translate from one language to another. The kids were able to understand some of the Kriol story we read to them, and they repeated some of the words we heard from a Dhuwaya story.

Thanks to Kristie, Rina, Amanda and all the lovely kids at Nemarluk for welcoming us, and we look forward to hearing more stories about how you’ve used materials from the Living Archive in your classes. Nemarluk_22



An open and shut case?

At the Puliima National Indigenous Language & Technology Forum, a panel was convened to discuss “Protecting rights and promoting access to Indigenous language materials.” The panelists were Cathy Bow from the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages at Charles Darwin UniversityKaren Manton from the Centre of Australian Languages and Linguistics at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary EducationDes Crump, the Indigenous Languages Coordinator at the State Library of Queensland, and Sandra Morrison from the Warumungu community around Tennant Creek area.

Puliima_panel_WPCathy opened the discussion with some background about how digital technology has led to a huge increase in the creation and publication of Indigenous language materials, and while this gives rise to many opportunities, it also creates new challenges. Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives on intellectual property differ in some aspects, for example the focus in Western copyright law on the protection of individual rights, while Indigenous tradition favours community and corporate ownership of knowledge and stories. In addition, there is a lack of legal recognition to the rights of Indigenous people to owning the intellectual property contained in some materials for which copyright may belong elsewhere.

Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

Cathy spoke of the experience of the Living Archive, where the majority of the material has been sourced from NT government schools which had bilingual education programs, and as such the copyright belongs to the NT government. However, the license given by the government to digitise and publish the materials online does not require any input from the Indigenous owners of the stories (including authors, illustrators, etc). While their moral rights are protected by copyright law, the project team wanted to ensure that people were happy with their material being made available on an open access website, so have been attempting to find all the contributors named in the books (or families of those who have passed away) and asking them to sign a permission form.

With regard to access issues, materials are available on the Living Archive site under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivs 3.0 License Australia, which allows users to share the material, as long as they attribute the source, don’t use it for any commercial purposes, and don’t share any derivative materials. This last point is somewhat problematic, in balancing the desire to promote access and engagement with the stories in the archive, while also protecting them from misuse. For example, the LAAL Digital Story Competition invites people to engage with the materials in the archive, and stipulates that any derivatives must be approved by the story owners and communities.

A particular challenge in this collection relates to materials that do not name the people involved in the creation of the work. This means it’s not known who can give permission. In some cases, people in the community know who was involved, so the team is trying to collect some of that information. Also, for materials that were not produced in NT government schools, it is necessary to seek a license from the copyright holders, which may be another institution (such as the Catholic Education Office or AuSIL for example). These processes can be time-consuming, but the team thinks they are important in showing respect for both the Western and Indigenous practices of intellectual property.

Puliima_panel_KMCALL Collection – Batchelor Institute

Karen spoke about Batchelor Institute’s CALL Collection, an archive of Indigenous language materials. Over 40 years, students, staff, linguists, language workers and speakers who want to preserve language and resources for the future have contributed to the Collection. As such it is grounded in good will and relationships. Making items more accessible and growing digital language resources for people is a key focus for the future, and so plans for digitisation and a website are under way.

Among the many issues about consent and access for the Collection, three arise across most activities and reflect the many different people and organisations who have connections with a work — Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP), moral rights and copyright.

ICIP is the broadest ground, encompassing many works and expressions of culture, including language, and communal, ongoing ownership and rights that aren’t protected by copyright or moral rights. ICIP and consultation with communities, creators, past students and contributors is the starting point for a permission strategy, because these are the people and the ground from which all the works in the Collection have come. Moral rights and copyright are considerations that follow on from and need to be addressed in addition to rather than in opposition with the wider scope of ICIP. For example the Collection’s partnership with LAAL works within exceptions in the Copyright Act, but ICIP and moral rights still have to be addressed, and people’s individual, family or community wishes and consent have to be sought and might redirect a decision or approach.

With these considerations in mind, the CALL Collection is working with Terri Janke and Company to develop cultural protocols and copyright and end user licence agreements, as well as creator, ICIP and community agreements for the digitisation and website project.

Above all the Collection is about those who have created it through their language and materials. During the digitisation and website project the Collection hopes to rekindle those relationships and interests of past and present students and language speakers (like Sandra Morrison on this panel) who have contributed and are keen to contribute to the Collection into the future, and be the guides about permission pathways and access.

State Library of Queensland – Indigenous Languages CollectionPuliima_panel_DC_crop

Following on from previous points on legal issues, Des focused on the personal aspects of digitising materials in collections. Drawing on State Library collection items, Des raised the notion of moral obligations to communities and families.

One such example was the Archibald Meston Papers collected when Meston was the Chief Protector of Aborigines, Queensland. Meston collected language and cultural knowledge from Aboriginal people across Queensland – due to the imbalance of power, it would be difficult to ascertain whether this information was provided freely or under duress and the threat of being removed. While the Meston material may be out of copyright, the information is about real people; hence there is a moral obligation on the State Library to treat the materials respectfully.

Another example was a State Library project that involved the creation of new knowledge from the Margaret Lawrie collection. The Retold project engaged community members to retell the stories collected by Lawrie and provide further information that accompanied the stories, e.g. songs, dance, string games. Towards the end of the project, a family who ‘owned’ a particular story exercised their custodial rights to not share the story with others at this stage. State Library was obliged to respect their wishes and not publicly share these stories until the family believes it is appropriate.

The issue then for collecting institutions is to find that balance that involves digitising materials for access while respecting the intellectual property and moral rights of communities, families and individuals. This is a sensitive area that requires further consideration which a Panel discussion can only touch on – the work of Terri Janke “Our Culture: Our Future – Report on Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights” is an excellent starting point.

Warumungu Community – Tennant Creek area

Puliima_panel_SM_cropSandra Morrison then spoke from the perspective of an Indigenous community which has recently regained access to a set of tapes recorded in the 1960s. She identified the key issues of seeking permission from the right people to transcribe and analyse these recordings. She highlighted the importance of getting community approval for a project such as this, where there are sensitivities about the knowledge and stories of deceased family members. Beyond a broad approval from community leaders, she pointed out the need to go back to the families of the speakers on the tapes and ask them about whether or not they wanted the tapes to be heard. This requires familiarity with family connections within a community to ensure the proper channels are followed, and also contrasts with the very Western legal system, which prioritises individual rights over corporate or community rights.

Since none of the panellists are lawyers, it was strongly recommended that people seek their own legal advice on these issues. A comment from the audience suggested that the topic requires additional attention and that perhaps some kind of working group could be convened to discuss the issues further. Someone else commented that “a whole conference stream could be devoted to this topic” (see blog entry from Grant Young at Indigenous Digital Excellence).

Anyone who would like to pursue this should contact to discuss.

POSTSCRIPT: Ghil’ad Zuckermann has recently released Engaging – A Guide to Interacting Respectfully and Reciprocally with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and their Arts Practices and Intellectual Property – which looks to be a useful contribution to this discussion.