Australia: Letter writing about new English teaching policy that excludes Indigenous languages and bilingual education

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Nov 6 15:46:26 UTC 2008

Letter writing
Well I finally sent off my letters to a bunch of politicians aboutthis new English teaching policy that pretty much excludes Indigenouslanguages and bilingual education. It's the first time I've had a goat writing letters to pollies - don't know if it has any effect, butI'm glad I did. I also had a little letter-to-the-ed published in theKatherine Times yesterday which is good. Here are the letters I sentto the pollies - it's in English and Kriol (what better way to make astatement about Indigenous languages and bilingual education than tomake your statement bilingual!).
Ps. If anyone has any tips on better ways to get such messages topollies, pls let me know.
Dear so-n-so,
The Northern Territory Minister for Education and Training, MarionScrymgour, recently issued a directive that the first four hours ofeducation in all NT schools will be conducted in English in an attemptto improve Englishliteracy outcomes in remote schoools. (Media release issued 14/10/08,
While I, like every other Territorian, wish to see dramaticimprovements in English literacy levels in the bush, I am appalled bythe method the Minister is employing to achieve this. It is misguided,ill-informed, rude and disrespectful. I want to highlight this issuewith you in the hope that you can influence the Minister and theNorthern Territory Government to reneg on this flawed decision.
Indigenous people, just like anyone, have the right to be educated intheir own language if they desire. With the Minister's directive, sheis taking away the basic right for Indigenous people across theTerritory to speak, teach in, and learn in their own languages. Beforelunch, that is. From the Yolngu to the Arrernte to the Tiwi to theBurarra to the Murrinh Patha to the Warlpiri to the Alyawarre and manymore – I am deeply concerned for all Indigenous people who work in NTSchools and speak their own Indigenous language in NT Schools – thosewho use bilingual education to maintain their language and teachEnglish, those who realise how fruitless it is to educate a 4-year oldin a foreign language, the old men who go to school to teach theirtraditional dances and songs, the mums and grandparents who speakLanguage to their kids and grandkids in order to unravel the mysteriesof Westerners and Western education, those who cry about the ongoingdevastation of their language and cul!
 ture and utilise their school toprovide a balanced education to their own children via the myriad ofIndigenous Language and Culture programs that exist in NT Schools.
I am a qualified linguist who lived in Ngukurr community for threeyears and have worked in language revitalisation in a number of othercommunities in the Katherine Region over the last six years and am afluent speaker of an Indigenous language, Kriol, and partial speakerof a number of other Indigenous languages. I know first hand thebenefit of delivering training and education in Aboriginal people'sfirst language as I do it regularly and achieve results. LearningEnglish and speaking an Indigenous language are not mutuallyexclusive. In fact, my personal experience tells me the opposite – Isee how easy it is for Indigenous students to engage with educationand training when I deliver it in their language, rather than aforeign language. It's a great way to teach and learn. Why is the NTGovernment denying Aboriginal people significant opportunities tolearn and teach this way?
What does the Minister's directive mean for the Indigenous teachersworking in remote schools? Will Indigenous teachers for forced tospeak only English (until 12:30pm) to their own students who are theirown kin in their own community school? Governments do not have theright to dictate to Indigenous people the language they must speak totheir own people in their own school.
I am very concerned about the impact this policy will have forbilingual education in NT Schools. Since it's inception in the 1970s,bilingual education in NT Schools has brought an enormous amount ofeducation, training, employment, resources, confidence and empowermentto Indigenous students and Indigenous teaching staff – is it now allover? What about the culture days run in numerous schools – Will theold men who go to schools to teach local songs and dances now have toteach in English or come back after lunch? This shows little respect.Do Aboriginal teaching assistants now have to just stand by in silencewhile they watch their kids struggle to understand their monolingualEnglish-speaking teacher when some simple instructions in their ownlanguage will set off the lightbulbs required for kids to engage withtheir education? Will we now go back to the days when people arepunished for speaking their language in schools? Will students who goon excursions to important cultural !
 sites be forced to speak onlyEnglish while on their own country (until 12:30pm)? The thought ofthese things happening in NT Schools makes me ashamed of the Territoryand Federal Governments I voted for.
I urge you take action to redress this policy. It is morallyreprehensible as it breaches the rights of minority groups to beeducated in their own language and and is seriously misguided in termsof ESL education methodology. I would be happy to provide you withfurther information on these issues.
Ngulajuku (Warlpiri – that's all),Bilinu, yakaŋunu dhärukmuru (Wägilak – that's all, no story now),Bonj (Dalabon – that's all),Jahbony (Ngalakgan – that's all),Murru mandi (Alawa – finish now),Guda mingi (Marra – finish now),Jaldu na (Kriol – that's all now),Marntaj (Gurindji – that's all),Wiiya (Nunggubuyu – that's all),
Dear so-n-so,
Marion Scrymgour, im det Minista bla Education en Treining la NorthernTerritory, bin jendim mesij weya im tok 'ola skul titja langa NT garratok onlifrom Ingglish raitap dinataim' blanga trai en album ola sjuden la bushbla len Ingglish mo beda. (Yu gin luk det stori la intanet la:
Wal mi, laik ebribodi iya la NT, wandim ola blekbala la bush komyunidibla sabi Ingglish brabliwei bat mi brabli nogudbinji bla wijei detMinista regin im beswei bla alabat bla len Ingglish. Im rongwei enmaiyul en nomo garrim eni rispek. Ai wandi dalim yu bla wanim imduwing dumaji maitbi yu gin duwum samting bal stabum det Minista frommeigimbat rong.
Blekbala, seim laik munanga, garrim det 'right' blanga tjusim wijanlanggus thei wandim bla alabat biginini education. Bat det mesij bladet Minista, im teikidawei det 'right' blanga blekbala ol oba dijanNT, bla tok, titj en len burrum alabat oun langgus. Bifo dina, ai min.Yolŋumob, Arrerntemob, Tiwimob, Burarramob, Murrinh-Pathamob,Alyawarremob – bigismob – ai fil sori bla ol detlot blekbala weya theiwek langa skul en sabi tok thei langgus. Detmob weya thei wek la'bilingual' skul blanga meigim thei langgus strongwan en titjim detIngglish gudwei. Detmob hu sabi im no yus titjing lilwanlilwanbiginini burrum Ingglish wen im nomo sabi eni Ingglish. Detlotolmenolmen hu oldei gu la skul bla titjim bunggul. Detlot mami, gaguen abuji weya thei tok langgus langa bigininimob dumaji detlotbiginini oldei bigis kwesjinmak la skul. Detlot pipul weya thei kraidumaji alabat langgus en kaltja guweiguwei en thei yusim alabat skulbla gibit alabat biginini tjens bla len tu wei garrim olkain!
 abalanggus en kaltja lesin.
Mi linggwis en ai bin jidan la Ropa bla thri yiya en ai bin wek langanajalot komyunidi la Katherrain eriya bla langgus bla siks yiya en misabi tok Kriol en lilbit bla najalot blekbala langgus du. Ai sabibrabliwei det im gudwan wen yu titjim blekbala garrim alabat ounlanggus dumaji ai oldei duwum lagijat na en im rait. Yu gin isi lenIngglish en tok langgus seimteim. Trubala, garrim main oun ai ai binluk. Ai bin luk im isi bla blekbala bla len wen det titja im tokburrum alabat oun langgus en nomo det langgus burrum natha kantri. Imbrabli gudwei bla titj en bla len. Wotfo det NT Gabmen kaan gibitblekbala tjens bla len lagijat?
Wanim det mesij from det Minista min blanga ola blekbala tijta langabush skul? Maitbi im min blekbala tijtamob oni lau bla tok burrumIngglish wen alabat tok la alabat oun femlimob la alabat oun skul.Gabmen mob nomo garrim eni 'right' bla dalim najamob blekbala wijanlanggus thei lau bla tok la alabat oun pipul la alabat oun skul.
Mi brabli nogudbinji dumaji maitbi dijan garra binijimap olabailingwul skul la NT o wanim? Ola treining, ejukeishin, bukmob,'pride' en pawa diskain titjing bin gibit blekbala sjuden en titja. Im'all for nothing' maitbi. Wanim bla ola kaltja dei yu faindim la lorraskul? Detlot olmen weya thei gu la skul bla bunggul – alabat garra tokburrum Ingglish o kambek aftanuntaim na maitbi. Nomo garrim eni rispektharran jeya. Ola assistant titja mob – wanim alabat garra du na?Jidan kwait wen thei luk alabat biginini basbreins dumaji alabat titjatok oni from Ingglish. Alabat perensmob sabi if thei ekspleinimbat labiginini from langgus alabat garra sabi en len gudwei. Maitbi im garrabi seim laik oldeis wen munanga bin panishim blekbala ebritaim theibin tok langgus la skul. Maitbi wen bigininimob gu la bush garrimskulmob bla luk kantri, alabat garra tok oni from Ingglish. Wen mijinggibat im garra hepin lagijat, mi gulijap baku.
Ai askim yu bla duwum samting bla tjeinjim det Minista main. Imnogudbala ting en im teikidawei pawa from detlot pipul weya thei nomogarrim maj pawa bat thei wandim alabat langgus la alabat skul.Nathawei, im nogudwei bla titjim biginini Ingglish wen thei sabi tokoni alabat oun langgus. Bunju yu wandim, ai gin gibit yu lorrainfameishin bla lenim yu bla diskain.
Ngulajuku (Warlpiri – jaldu na),Bilinu, yakaŋunu dhärukmuru (Wägilak – Jaldu, no stori na),Bonj (Dalabon – jaldu),Jahbony (Ngalakgan – jaldu),Murru mandi (Alawa – najing na),Guda mingi (Marra – najing na),Sincerely (Ingglish – jaldu na),Marntaj (Gurindji – jaldu),Wiiya (Nunggubuyu – jaldu),Jaldu na
-- **************************************N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service toits membersand implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owneror sponsor ofthe list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members whodisagree with amessage are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)*******************************************

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list