Australia: Indigenous school plan criticised

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat May 26 13:41:47 UTC 2007

Indigenous school plan criticised

May 26, 2007

A FORMER Liberal Aboriginal Affairs minister has labelled as empty
rhetoric comments by the federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough,
that Aboriginal children should learn English. "It's a very good thing for
[state and federal] ministers to make grand declarations about kids
needing an education," said Fred Chaney, who held the portfolio from 1978
to 1980. "They are responsible for the education systems that are not
delivering that education at the moment."

Mr Chaney said the Federal Government lacked the education infrastructure
to implement its own Aboriginal education policy, a document that has been
settled in the past 12 months by the council of federal, state and
territory education ministers. "I've read that policy. I think every
paragraph in it is good, and my view would be that there is no [education]
system in Australia that can deliver that policy." Unless educational
policy was in the capacity of every school, "it's just words", Mr Chaney
said. "What we need is a commitment to resourcing schools in human and
financial terms to meet those very desirable objectives."

Mr Brough said on Thursday that too many indigenous children had a
rudimentary knowledge of English, when their native languages were spoken
by only "200, 300 or 400 other people". He said his plan to ensure they
learnt English had the support of grandparents in indigenous communities
who wanted their young people to have the same opportunities as white
children. But NSW's first Aboriginal MP, Linda Burney, accused Mr Brough
of hypocrisy.

"Aboriginal kids do need to be bilingual, but it's a bit rich coming from
a person who actually is part of a government that took away funding for
bilingual programs in the Northern Territory." The Opposition indigenous
affairs spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said talk of learning English was
rhetoric unless it was backed with funding.


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