Tag Archives: engagement

Volunteering with the Living Archive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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,


Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair workshop

The weekend of 7-9 August we had the privilege of running a couple of workshops at the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair with Josh Hughes from Culture Tech.

Alex & Daniel from Maningrida

On Friday we recorded Daniel and Alex reading a frog book in Burarra language (available here) and started putting an e-book together using ibook author. Unfortunately the sound recording wasn’t very good, so we couldn’t complete that one, but it was fun learning how to use iBooks Author to combine images, text and recordings.


Margaret Duncan

On Sunday we had Margaret Duncan from Urapunga read a fish story in Kriol language (available here). This one we managed to complete – you can download the final version for your iOS device here.

We also created a DAAF handout explaining how we did each part of the process – you can use it to create your own digital story for the #LAALComp.

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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

Wurrumiyanga visit

Project manager Cathy Bow recently visited Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island in regard to the collection of Tiwi books for the Living Archive project.

Wurrumiyanga was one of the first communities I visited when the project began in 2012, and Tiwi is still one of my favourite collections of books. Wonderful stories with incredible illustrations, good metadata (identifying who wrote and illustrated each book, what year it was published, etc.) and almost all with English translations. The Literature Production Centre at MCPS (Murrupurtiyanuwu Catholic Primary School) has a resource room with lots of copies of each book, in numerical order, some carefully packaged up to protect them from dust, all carefully preserved and easy to access.

Tiwi LPC (1)

The resource room at the Literature Production Centre at MCPS Wurrumiyanga

All the books are neatly arranged in order

I travelled with Ailsa Purdon, the language and literacy advisor from the Catholic Education Office. She spent time with Fiona and Millika, helping them develop resources for teaching Tiwi language and culture in the classrooms. They were excited to see the books on the Living Archive website, and Fiona was enjoying reading the stories aloud and explaining them to us. The illustrations she made for Ngirramini ngini Japarra amintiya Purrukuparli (The Tiwi legend of Japarra and Purrukuparli) are incredible.

Ailsa & Fiona (2)

Ailsa & Fiona exploring the Living Archive

Fiona's book

One of the many books Fiona illustrated

We met with the school principal, Daniel Graves, who was delighted to hear about the Living Archive project and keen to see it used in the classrooms. We discussed ways the materials can be used not just in Tiwi language classes, but also in history, science, English, and other parts of the school curriculum. He’s planning to get the LAAL Reader app to get all the Tiwi books on to the school’s iPads.


Dulcie Tipungwuti with the values of the school in Tiwi and English

Since we think it’s important to get approval from the original creators of the materials to put them on our open access website, I spent time going around the community with Dulcie Tipungwuti. She introduced me to many of the people who either worked in the LPC or were involved in telling or writing stories, or making illustrations. Everyone was happy to sign the permission form and was pleased to know that the books hadn’t been forgotten. There are still several people we haven’t found yet, but we’ll keep trying!

We bumped into Magdalen Kerinaiua who had come to the gathering of linguists and language workers we had at Batchelor last year, and who is still involved with language work at the Museum. I reminded her of the video made by ABC Open about her grandfather’s story. More of his wartime stories are available in one of the books in the LAAL collection: Ngirramini ngini Karri Ngiyarringani Kapani Yimamani Parlingarri (Purraputimali) (Memories of my father Louie Munkara) 

Tiwi Museum

From an exhibition in the Patakijiyali Museum

Sister Anne Gardiner has done amazing job keeping up the Patakijiyali Museum, with a focus on language and culture, including the sale of Tiwi language books and exhibitions incorporating Tiwi language. Sr Anne has been a long time advocate for Tiwi language and culture over many decades, and has been very helpful to the Living Archive project since it started.

I brought back more Tiwi language books to be scanned and uploaded to our archive, and with the signatures we managed to get I can release more books to public view on the website. We also found a video and an audio file to upload. We look forward to hearing about the exciting ways this fantastic material is being used in the school and the wider community.


Welcome to 2015

The Living Archive project is about to enter its fourth year – not bad for something that was originally funded for 1 year! Careful spending and a second successful funding application has allowed us to continue the project over a longer period, and do so much more than we could have done in a single year.

Some statistics:

At the end of 2014 we had 3115 items uploaded to CDU Library’s eSpace server, of which 1353 are publicly available through the LAAL website. The public items represent only 43% of the total, and one of our goals for this year is to increase that percentage. The main reason for this is the difficulty of identifying and tracking down the creators of each item to get their permission to make the items public. We’ve already collected over 600 signatures, yet there are still nearly 1000 additional names to find. Some items don’t have any information about the creators, so they can’t be made public without someone giving permission, but who do we ask?

  • Number of languages represented: 30
  • Number of communities represented: 27
  • Language with the most items publicly available: Pintupi-Luritja (189 items)
  • Language with the most items uploaded: Warlpiri (517 items)
  • Language with the highest proportion of uploaded items made public: Maung (80%)

More items are being uploaded regularly – some have already gone up this week, and more will follow soon. The process takes a while to ensure that all the information is correctly recorded and uploaded, and we still find errors even after careful checking! If you find an error, feel free to let us know.

Comparison figures for the end of each year so far:

year uploaded public
2012 436 89
2013 1453 645
2014 3115 1353

Looking back at our plans for 2014, it’s nice to see that we achieved most of them. Some of our achievements include:

  • revamping the website to include a more intuitive map page and a separate project site where we can post other information
  • developing a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter an efficient means of sharing information quickly, as well as a record of some of our activities
  • having public ‘launches’ in both Canberra and Darwin which attracted a very positive response
  • adding materials identified through the ‘Search and Rescue‘ strand, particularly through the workshop held at Batchelor Institute in July. There are already 134 items from 3 languages, with more coming soon
  • having our archive added to OLAC and ANDS and accessible through Trove

The to-do list for 2015 looks enormous already, but we’re looking forward to developing the Archive further, with input from our users.

Here are a few things we have planned for this year:

  • our LAAL Reader app to allow mobile users to download whole collections for use offline
  • an API which will allow users to log in to the site and made changes. This will include visiting some communities to test the functionality
  • working out how to make information about items not yet public available to users
  • engaging with the academic community to encourage researchers to use the archive
  • working more closely with remote schools and others to find creative ways to use the materials in the classroom
  • update our language map with feedback from community members and other experts
  • more writing – we had two academic papers published last year, with two more due out soon, and two more currently under review. We have ideas for several more, the challenge is finding the time to write them!
  • more permissions
  • streamlining processes for adding audio files and e-book files to the archive
  • continue to try to update codes for Yolŋu language names in ISO 639-3 to better reflect language naming practices in current use
  • sustainability audit to work out how best to maintain the archive once our funding expires at the end of 2015

Thanks for helping us make this a ‘living archive’ by engaging with us as we develop it, and by using the materials in the archive.

Academic engagement strategy – expressions of interest

The archive of materials in Aboriginal languages at livingarchive.cdu.edu.au is living and growing, with more than 1000 items in over 25 languages from around the Northern Territory.  Hundreds more items are still being discovered and processed, to be uploaded when permission from the creators is obtained.

One of the four strands of Stage II of this ARC-funded project is designated ‘Academic Engagement’.  The goal is to establish a network of academics involved in teaching and researching Australian languages, to facilitate research which involves collaborations with language owners through the archive in undergraduate teaching and postgraduate research.

Types of academic engagement may include

  • Using texts (and related resources) from the Living Archive in teaching and research work.
  • Enriching existing texts with translations, enhanced metadata, audio resources, commentaries etc to be uploaded as ‘related items’
  • Engagement with text and language owners for further research (including the upskilling and professionalisation of language authorities)
  • Documenting uses of the resources in various contexts
  • Building language-specific and text-specific lexicons, mini-grammars, etc
  • Deriving corpora for analysis
  • Uploading new texts and resources
  • Proposing alterations and corrections for existing resources

We are looking for expressions of interest for a linguist / researcher to facilitate academic engagement. Possible tasks may include the following:

  • Bring together a network of academic linguists (including possibly internationally) interested in using the Living Archive for teaching or research
  • Audit degrees and courses which could possibly engage with (or contribute) texts and collaborate with their owners
  • Develop an audit of texts in (NT) Aboriginal languages in PhD theses and other research projects which could be included in the archive, and people to contact for permission.
  • Locate texts in other archives which could be shared with the Living Archive and vice versa.
  • Work with the Living Archive team to strategise and implement a permissions process including ways of identifying the creators and owners of materials who might be contacted for permission

This work may be done as a consultancy or part of a research project, or other arrangements can be negotiated.

Please contact us for more information or to express your interest in being involved.

Radio story time

Haidee was interviewed on TEABBA radio last week, talking about the Living Archive and introducing an audio recording from the Milingimbi collection. Read the book and listen here .


We’d love to hear YOUR stories on the radio, contact us about reading books from the Living Archive collection.


A few e-books have been made with the agreement and help of language and story owners. These will be uploaded alongside the original stories for others to enjoy. One of these will an e-book about making dillybags (bathi) from strips of pandanus. This story was written, illustrated, translated and read aloud by Elizabeth Milmilany Dhurrkay (Räkay).

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Räkay has now been working with Dr Brian Devlin to produce a version which can be read using a web browser, mobile phone, tablet or computer. (To see an early draft please go to bathi.netii.net). This has been very much a team effort. Cathy Bow segmented the sound files. Brian prepared an HTML5 template to integrate the audio, text and images.

A colour coding scheme was developed at Milingimbi to indicate the reading levels of printed books produced for use in the bilingual program. One interesting question is whether the ebooks that go into the LAAL archive should also use the same scheme.

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