Australia: Push for English causes Aboriginal backlash

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu Nov 20 14:31:40 UTC 2008

Push for English causes Aboriginal backlash

Natasha Robinson | November 20, 2008
Article from:  The Australian

GOVERNMENTS risk poisoning their relationship with Aboriginal people
by clumsily pushing through a threadbare policy mandating that
children in remote schools are predominantly taught in English, Arnhem
Land's most experienced Aboriginal educator has warned. Yalmay
Yunupingu, a teacher at Yirrkala Community Education Centre for 32
years and one of the rare remote-based Aboriginal teachers who holds a
mainstream diploma of education qualification, has broken ranks with
her brother-in-law. Galarrwuy Yunupingu. to condemn the
English-focused schools policy that effectively spells the death of
bilingual education.

Ms Yunupingu's criticisms came as federal Education Minister Julia
Gillard threw her support behind the Northern Territory Government's
policy, following opposition from race discrimination commissioner Tom
Calma. "English is the language of further learning and English is the
language of work, and if we want indigenous kids who are growing up
today right across the Northern Territory, right across the nation, to
have a chance to do an undergraduate degree, do a postgraduate degree,
go out and get a good job, then people need to read and write
English," Ms Gillard said.

"They need to be able to do it at the level that further education
requires, and at the level that work requires." Ms Yunupingu, one of
the original proponents of bilingual education in schools, said the
Territory Government had not consulted with those who would be
affected by the new policy, which was poorly understood. The Territory
Government had not articulated the new policy beyond announcing a new
requirement that the first four hours of schooling would be conducted
in English.

"Teaching the first four hours of English -- we don't know what it
really means, it could mean teaching English all day," Ms Yunupingu
said. "It's like spitting on the bilingual program and devaluing the
indigenous children's first language without any respect. Language is
our living treasure and our survival, we nurture our language just
like a child." Ms Yunupingu criticised the way the Territory
Government had done a U-turn on bilingual education with little
warning, condemning the new policy as assimilationist.

"I've heard everyone say English is a language of power, because it is
a universal language. I'll tell you something -- that indigenous
language is a language of power too." Yolngu leaders are divided over
the issue of English in schools. Mr Yunupingu, an Arnhem Land
powerbroker, believes teaching children in English does not lead to a
loss of culture. Territory Deputy Chief Minister Marion Scrymgour
denied the Government had failed to consult Aboriginal people on the
English-focused policy. "There has been a lot of consultation with a
lot of those communities," Ms Scrymgour said.,25197,24678230-5006790,00.html

N.b.: Listing on the lgpolicy-list is merely intended as a service to
its members
and implies neither approval, confirmation nor agreement by the owner
or sponsor of
the list as to the veracity of a message's contents. Members who
disagree with a
message are encouraged to post a rebuttal. (H. Schiffman, Moderator)

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list