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Voice of the Land - Volume 6

Our Languages Are the Voice of the Land

The FATSIL NEWSLETTER JULY / AUGUST / SEPTEMBER, 1997
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER CORPORATION OF LANGUAGES
VOLUME 06

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The Governor Sir Charles and Lady Gairdner with Abbot Gomez inspecting the children of St. Josephs Orphanage, New Norcia, W.A.
National Inquiry highlights impact of language loss

The National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families has recognised the devastating harm inflicted on individuals, family groups and communities through the loss of language and culture which resulted from the practice of separation. The inquiry received evidence or submissions from over 750 people and organisations in undertaking its comprehensive examination of the policies and laws of the past. A number of recommendations coming from the inquiry relate directly to language issues, with some specifying the need to increase community resources for the practical maintenance of languages, while others address the issue of compensation for those whose lives and cultural heritage were irrevocably altered.

The Inquiry found that many forcibly removed children and their descendants have lost their cultures, languages, heritage and lands, as well as their families and communities. A number of proposals are made with a view to reparation for the actions of the past. The report says, "Language, culture and history centres should be established in each region to teach the separated children and their descendants their language, and to teach the history to everyone."

Recommendations relating to Indigenous languages include: That reparation be made to all who suffered because of forcible removal policies including; descendants of those forcibly removed who, as a result, have been deprived of community ties, culture and language, and links with and entitlements to their traditional land.

12a. That the commonwealth expand the funding of Indigenous language, culture and history centres to ensure national coverage at regional level.

12b. That where the Indigenous community so determines, the regional language, culture and history centre be funded to record and maintain local Indigenous languages and to teach those languages, especially to people whose forcible removal deprived them of opportunities to learn and maintain their language, and to their descendants.

29b. That the Council of Australian Governments ensure that Indigenous language, culture and history centres have the capacity to serve as repositories of personal information that the individuals concerned have chosen to place in their care and which is protected in accordance with established privacy principles.

38a. That every church and other non-government agency which played a role in the placement and care of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families, at the request of an Indigenous language, culture and history centre, transfer historical and cultural information it holds relating to the community or communities represented by the centre.

If acted upon by Government, the recommendations would involve long term commitment to the support of Language maintenance and retrieval, with financial support for many areas which now struggle for recognition and effective funding.

Copies of Bringing them home - a guide to the findings and recommendations of the National Inquiry are now being distributed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

The Community Guide, a 50 page summary of the full report, is being sent to all individuals and organisations who made submissions to the Inquiry, with copies also available free to Indigenous organisations throughout Australia.

Bringing them home can be ordered through:

The Public Affairs Unit Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
GPO. Box 5218
Sydney NSW 1042

Copies of the full 700 page report of the Inquiry are available through the Australian Government Publishing Service at a cost of $59.95.

Call toll free - 132447.