Push to keep the Aborigines down

BILINGUAL indigenous language education should be introduced to all schools with Aboriginal students, and indigenous languages included as an official Closing the Gap measure, according to a parliamentary report to be released today.
Queensland Labor MP Shayne Neumann, the committee chairman, told The Australian the committee would back the controversial use of bilingual education and criticise its abolition in the Northern Territory by the previous Territory Labor government. He said education should be conducted in both languages to deliver the best outcomes. He said that in communities across the nation where English was not the first language, indigenous students had the right to learn in their own language.
The report calls for an emergency response to save the disappearing languages. I would rather the report called for an emergency response to educate the kids in maths, science and English and apportioned their own indigenous language to one period a week. Of course I would change my mind the instant I hear that employers across Australia are now accepting job applications with resumes in Yolŋu. But that isn’t happening soon. Neuman continues to play Canute;
“There were 250 languages at the time of white settlement with only 18 now spoken by significant numbers of indigenous people,” he said.
And the Brits, our ancestors, once spoke Anglo-Norman French. The world changes for the better and the English language has been a big part of that. It’s fine that the kids learn about their own history and language but not to the detriment of English. They need their own language to know where they come from but the need English to know where they are going and they aren’t going anywhere without it.


  • You miss the point. Kids can learn maths, literacy, science, even English, *through* their own language. In fact, they learn better if they are taught in their own languages.

    Want remote kids to have better English? Teach them in their own language first. They will learn better, enjoy school more, be engaged and tackle English learning head on with confidence.

    Note this is not about teaching them their own language, but about teaching them *in* or *through* their own language. It works. 

  • Wamut, I agree that teaching the necessary subjects in the langage of the student is an ideal way to go…..overseas educators don’t teach those subjects in English to Russian kids or Chinese kids or French kids in their homeland. They may learn English to be able to avail themselves of communicating on a broader global platform, but it is unlikely they will be taught obscure languages to enable them to converse with fewer than two hundred thousand persons globally.  My question is why on earth would we see as necessary, the teaching of Aboriginal language  as a compulsory subject to  English speaking students, who will have no need and probably no desire to learn the language. As an elective for students that see a need or desire it may well be a bonus.  I don’t see a problem with setting up classes for non English speaking students to ensure they learn the necessary subjects, in their own language, to enable them to compete in whatever vocation they eventually choose.  Those students should be taught English as a necssary/compulsory subject from an early age to enable them to join mainstream English speaking classes as soon as practical, with the long term goal of being able to successfully compete for employment on an even basis with other English speaking Australians.  

  • John Van Krimpen

    The issue of language may be important for little pockets or groups who may still speak an indigenous language only. But this isn’t 20 or 50 years ago. There is way too much noble savage mythology going on, English should be the core language skill (not pidgin english either) and then elective on needs or other basis. English should be taught the earlier the better.

    I am the son of a migrant my mother was Australian, but I grew up and went to school with lots of migrant kids whose parent’s English skills were weak or non existent. Correctly and get this with parental agreement these kids were encouraged as much as possible to have their reading and writing skills improved, their parents knew this was the only way the kids could get ahead in life.

    The porcess is about getting kids prepared for life in a modern Australia not a living diorama history lesson, no one has ever said the languages cannot or should not preserved, just not at the sacrifice of normal live for kids.

    My two bobs worth, I am so over the far left’s anarchist’s wet dreams of setting Australians in conflict with other Australians.

  • Walmut, teaching in their own language sounds great, but how do you teach science in a hunter gatherer culture based language? how do you teach maths beyond basic maths in such a language? how do you teach economics? how do you teach anything useful? there is a reason these languages die, that reason is that these languages are not able to cope with the modern world – let the language die and teach the children something that will let them work rather than trap them on a cultural reservation.

    If you want to preserve the language, learn it as a hobby or record it, but it should not take up any time in a school curriculum.

  • I can’t agree Warmut.  As much as it might sound hard these kids need English as a first a language to have any chance of lifting their quality of life.  Living at Nulunbuy or worse, Yeunemundu is no life, no job and no chance.  They need to leave these missions, outposts and ‘Indigenous only’ towns and go where the jobs are – just like white country kids do.  

    This thread at Catallaxy is worth reading 

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