Category Archives: User stories

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.

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 

Gurindji books now available

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.

Making a Warlpiri audiobook

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  and click on WATCH (go full screen to get the whole effect!) And send us your ebooks or audiobooks when you’ve created them.

Testimonial from language teacher

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.

Mark RichardsMark Richards 2
MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development
ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Western Sydney University

wsu_logo      coedl_logo

If you have a story about using the materials in the Living Archive, contact us!

“An extremely useful research tool”

Academic linguist Dr David Wilkins from ANU shares his reflections and experience using the Living Archive.

I can’t express effusively enough how wonderful (and important) I think the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is.  It’s been amazing to see new life breathed into materials I had thought were lost in the mists of time.  I know at least one Arrernte woman who was very moved to find that some of her past work was now publicly available on the web. Moreover, I have found it to be an extremely useful research tool.

The reproduction of the materials in both original (pdf) and text format has made it very amenable to comparative linguistic research through the search function.  As a simple example, I used LAAL to explore uses of the “pan-Australian” exclamation /yakay/ ‘wow!; ouch!; hey!; oh no!’ (and its variant spellings) and found data from languages as different as Anindilyakwa, Arrernte (Eastern and Western), Djambarrpuyngu, Gumatj, Murrinh-Patha, Pintupi-Luritja, Tiwi, Warlpiri and  Wubuy. At least one of these languages had no entry in the available (and extensive) dictionary and grammar, but did have numerous text examples in readers that were only discoverable through LAAL. Also, where /yakay/ was recorded in a grammar or dictionary, it was commonly the case that no examples of use were given – and, once again, LAAL came to the rescue.  The availability of the pdf version means we can also get a much better contextual understanding of the use of the interjection because of accompanying pictures or illustrations. Further, in several cases /yakay/ is used in a speech bubble in  a picture or photo, thereby making it clear what accompanying bodily and facial expressions co-occur with the use of the exclamation.  I understand this is a simple, and perhaps minor, example of how LAAL can be used, but it should suffice to indicate the archive’s rich potential.

I also believe that the numerous books where the author has also illustrated their own work can provide important evidence on issues which are relevant to linguistics, social semiotics and cognitive science, since the two perspectives (linguistic and visual / pictorial) allow researchers to explore similarities and differences in how information is represented in the drawing vs. how it is represented in language.  In other words, it is not just a language archive, it is a multimodal archive that demonstrates, among other things, a nice range of local artistic representational talents and choices.

Finally, I applaud the attempts that have been made to expand the usefulness of materials for schools and communities through initiatives like the Living Archive’s Digital Story Competition. It was great to be able to hear and see stories that had previously only had a ‘print’ presence. It would be nice to see further similar initiatives.

I only have one current suggestion for improving the usefulness of the archive – fuzzy string searching (approximate string matching). This would help both community members and researchers alike: given the variability in orthographies and spellings even in one language, it can be hard to find exactly the items one is searching for.

All this is simply to say congratulations to the members of the LAAL development team.

Wilkins Photo.JPGDavid P. Wilkins, PhD
Research Associate
ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language
Australian National University
Language and Linguistics Consulting

Testimonial from CDU lecturer

sue-smithDr Sue Smith, Senior Lecturer in Education at Charles Darwin University has sent a lovely message about how she uses the Living Archive in her teaching.

Just a short note to say how useful the links to the Living Archive in my subjects are for students.

I teach child and Adolescent Development that includes language acquisition, and effects of family, peers and culture/s.

Children have tremendous potential to learn languages, and it is vital that that they maintain the languages of their families and communities for their overall wellbeing and ongoing educational successes.

The Living Archive is a wonderful resource to introduce some of these complexities to my students, a repository for teachers to access to provide resources that can capitalise on Indigenous students’ languages and knowledge, and provide an entry point for non-Indigenous students to learn about Indigenous cultures with authentic age-appropriate materials.

This is a wonderful resource that offers itself to many learning contexts.

Thank you to you and the team,


Using LAAL at Monash Uni

Dr Alice Gaby from Monash University shares how she used the Living Archive in the undergraduate linguistics course “

I got the students to use the archive for various short homework exercises. For example:

  • Find a likely instance of nominal morphology.
  • Is there any evidence of allomorphy?
  • If so, what are the allomorphs and what are their respective distributions?
  • What is the most likely function of this morpheme?

The students also used the archive to complete a project in which they constructed a part of a learner’s grammar on the basis of the primers/readers and similar. For example, one group had a plain-language explanation of how grammatical relations are expressed (e.g. “how you know who is doing the action and who is affected by it”). The students really loved working with the real language materials.

I suggested to the LAAL team that it would be useful to be able to copy and paste the citation reference for the books the students used. Now they’ve added that feature, it will be really useful next time I run the Australian languages unit (first semester 2016).

If you have a story to share about how you’ve used materials from the Living Archive, let us know

Worawa students love the Living Archive!

Sally Cunningham from Worawa College visited us in Darwin recently, and shared with us about how the school is using materials from the Living Archive.


Worawa Aboriginal College is a girls’ boarding college catering for Indigenous girls in years 7-10.Worawa is located in Healesville, Victoria, about an hour’s drive east of Melbourne. The 70 students currently attending Worawa College come from across Australia, many from remote communities in the Northern Territory. Most students speak an Aboriginal language as their first language, and some students speak up to four languages, as well as English.

At Worawa College, we acknowledge the richness and diversity of our students’ languages, and we also recognise the cultural pride and strength that comes from valuing these languages in the academic program. All of our students engage with some language work within the school week, and some students are part of targeted language literacy work.

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is often used in this teaching and learning. For the students who have been immersed in their language, these archives can enhance and support their reading and writing. For students who are beginning to learn their heritage language, the archives are used to explore different topics and learn new words. As language and culture is embedded across our curriculum, the archive has been used in a variety of subject areas. Language books have been used to look at bush foods in Science, and for exploring different stories for incorporation in artworks.

Students actively engage with their first or heritage languages, and also enjoy exploring the languages of their friends at Worawa. The Living Archive books can provide a link to their home communities through language and some students recognise authors, artwork and images from family members This can be very powerful for them.

By Sally Cunningham and Kathryn Gale