In some communities, difficulties in identifying the appropriate language informants will not arise. There will be a clear agreement about who are the community authorities on language issues. However, it is also the case that in some other communities it may be a little more difficult for a consultant to be clear about the most appropriate people to consult and work with as language informants. Consultants who have not worked with a particular community before and who wish to establish initial contact with a community should go to any of the recognised and established community organisations in the region or local area. Some parts of Australia have established community organisations and structures which are dedicated to language and/or culture. 4 More specifically, some communities will have an established language centre committee, regional language management committee or local area language reference group or steering committee. These types of committees are comprised of Elders, language custodians and language experts. They are representative groups which are in a position to give advice about the most appropriate community members a consultant should contact and work closely with on any given language project.
If the consultant plans to work with a community which has not yet established a language-specific organisation or committee, he/she should approach a range of other local community organisations, individuals and groups. These could include the chairperson of the community council, the Indigenous education assistants on the school staff, Indigenous education consultants in the regional office of the education department, the local Indigenous education advisory group.5 It is important for consultants to get advice and identify a few key individuals who the community agrees can represent their interests, and to establish a working relationship with them.
Within a community, particular people are recognised as being custodians of particular knowledge and cultural information. So consultants need to be aware that the people to be involved in any given language project may differ depending on the content of the materials to be published. Each language project may be a matter for a particular group within the community. Therefore, at any meeting in the early planning stages of a language project, it is necessary to have the relevant representatives from the within the broader community.
4 For example, see those listed in the FATSIL National Indigenous Languages contacts directory at www.fatsilc.org.au/contact-us
5 See the list of useful contact organisations at the back of this guide