Today we celebrate International Mother Language Day, and this year’s theme is

Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes

Languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

In that context it is interesting to reflect on the history of the bilingual programs in the Northern Territory and the legacy of these programs, including the books that were produced to resources these programs, to help children develop literacy in their first language before transitioning to English. Many of these books became endangered as a result of the declining support for the program, but are being preserved and made accessible online through the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages.

Andrew Manakgu from Gunbalanya was involved in the Kunwinjku bilingual program from its early days. Now working at Injalak Arts in Gunbalanya, he was recorded recently telling the story of the origins of that program, and about the books that were created and why they’re important. Listen to his story below and check out some of those books here

Thanks to Andy Peart for making the recording, and working with Jill Nganjmirra and Murray Garde on the translation.

Kunwinjku and other Bininj Kunwok languages are also the focus of a new research project, which will use some of these materials to develop online teaching programs for Indigenous languages in Australian universities.