[lg policy] Australia: Teacher resources: Indigenous language materials

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Thu Apr 26 10:11:11 EDT 2018


 Teacher resources: Indigenous language materials
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26 April 2018
[image: Cathy Bow]
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[image: Teacher resources: Indigenous language materials]
Many of the resources were produced during the era of bilingual education
in the NT. Image: Charles Darwin University.

The promotion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and
cultures as a cross-curriculum priority in the Australian Curriculum
provides both a challenge and an opportunity for teachers.

Many teachers struggle to identify and use appropriate resources, and to
create contexts in which such knowledge can be embedded. Educators with
limited connections to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and
cultures may require support to incorporate Indigenous knowledge
respectfully and appropriately in the classroom.
<https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/?ACT=23&ad_id=471>

Rather than just an add-on, the histories and cultures of Indigenous people
can be integrated into each learning area to bring new perspectives to
existing knowledge and practice, and to encourage interesting and
innovative ways to incorporate this knowledge.
An archive of authentic texts

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages <http://laal.cdu.edu.au/>
contains authentic language materials which can assist in resourcing and
supporting teachers to meet this challenge across all areas of the
curriculum. The open access archive contains thousands of authentic texts
in Indigenous languages of the Northern Territory, many with English
translations and rich illustrations. The materials cover a vast array of
topics, from traditional stories, ethnobiology, history, bush food and
medicine, tales of contemporary life, and translations of English stories.

Many of the resources were produced during the era of bilingual education
in the Northern Territory, beginning in the 1970s, and were mostly created
by Indigenous people for Indigenous children who spoke an Indigenous
language at home, and were learning to read and write in their own language
before transitioning to English literacy.

The Living Archive project came out of concern for the materials which were
no longer in active use in schools due to policy shifts away from bilingual
education (Simpson, Caffery & McConvell, 2009). The project team visited
many of these remote schools and collected books for scanning, as well as
gathering materials from libraries and private collections. In many of
these locations, the materials were highly vulnerable, scattered around hot
sheds and dusty storerooms, with no catalogues available to identify what
books had been created. A second round of government funding enabled the
inclusion of materials from other NT communities which didn’t have
bilingual programs, but were still creating language resources.
Preservation and online access

The goals of the Living Archive are twofold: firstly the preservation of
these materials of great cultural, linguistic and pedagogical value.
Secondly, the online publication of these materials makes them accessible
to a wide audience, including the communities of origin, educators and
researchers, as well as the general public, who may not have been aware of
the existence of such a vast range of written materials in Australian
Indigenous languages. The materials are hosted on Charles Darwin University
Library’s digital repository, which ensures sustainability of access beyond
the limited cycle of funding. The project is still adding new materials to
the collection, and continuing to work on ways to promote engagement with
the resources, via a blog and sample lesson plans.

Teachers and students can access the materials directly through the web
interface, at no cost and with no login required. The site can be navigated
via a map of language areas, by browsing by place and language, as well as
searching words in English or in any of the 50 Indigenous languages
included in the archive.

[image: The new staffroom at Macgregor Primary School]

Complete versions of all materials in PDF and plain text formats can be
viewed online or downloaded and shared under a Creative Commons Attribution
Non-Commercial No-Derivatives <http://laal.cdu.edu.au/site/permission>
licence.
Materials to support teachers across the curriculum

For teachers, the Living Archive contains materials which can be used to
support teaching across all learning areas of the Australian Curriculum.

For example, in the area of Health and Physical Education, there are
several books relating to popular sports and games in remote communities.
An interesting classroom activity would be to explore different
perspectives on some of the health issues affecting Indigenous communities
around Australia, and see how these are presented from the perspective of
the Indigenous people themselves. This could include discussion of how
sickness is caused, through exploring books in the archive which explain
some common diseases, advice about hygiene and health, as well as resources
about bush foods and medicine, which could also be used as part of a
science curriculum.

A History teacher can draw on stories told by and for Indigenous
Australians on topics such as how people lived prior to colonisation, early
interactions with explorers and missionaries, stories of massacres, and
personal reminiscences of World War II. Such stories invite students to
compare historical traditions from Western and Indigenous perspectives.
Examples covering each of the learning areas are available on the project
website <http://livingarchive.cdu.edu.au/australian-curriculum/> and in an
open access article published in the *Learning Communities Journal* (Bow,
2016).

The Living Archive allows teachers and students around Australia to easily
access a vast range of literature, art, culture and language, leading them
to think about different ways to consider Indigenous knowledge in their own
contexts. Schools and teachers with limited or no connection to Indigenous
peoples can use the materials in the classroom, and those who have
connections can also use these resources to support or develop
relationships and incorporate knowledge directly from Indigenous
authorities ­— leading to further exploration of opportunities for
connection with local knowledge custodians, research into culture and
language of the local area
<http://www.firstlanguages.org.au/get-involved/contact-your-local-language-group.html>,
and understanding of language maintenance and revitalisation.

*References*

Bow, C. (2016). Using authentic language resources to incorporate
Indigenous knowledges across the Australian Curriculum. *Learning
Communities: International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special
Issue: New Connections in Education Research]*, 20, 20-39. DOI:
http://doi.org/10.18793/LCJ2016.20.03.

Simpson, J., Caffery, J., & McConvell, P. (2009). Gaps in Australia’s
Indigenous language policy: Dismantling bilingual education in the Northern
Territory. *Discussion Paper 24*, Canberra: Australian Institute of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Think about a future topic or unit of work you’re teaching: How could you
integrate the histories and cultures of Indigenous people into this
learning area? How will you identify appropriate resources to support
teaching and learning?


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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