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Students at the UND Broome Campus
a new perspective

"We've got a new understanding of history and culture of Aboriginal people as we looked into the way languages function"

A key objective of the Broome campus of the University of Notre Dame Australia is to provide strong support for the process of reconciliation. To that end, many units are offered that focus on Aboriginal Studies. One of these is the unit 'Foundation to Australian Indigenous Languages.'

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Students at the UND Broome Campus
The group studying the unit in second semester 1999 included indigenous and non-indigenous students. As Broome is in a remote area and close to people who still speak their heritage languages, those who grow up in the town are usually aware of languages but may know very little about them. The unit encourages people to extend their knowledge by looking at languages from right across Australia. The "Language of the Month" articles from this newsletter were a great source of information and helped the students appreciate the efforts of many groups to revive their languages. It also made the indigenous students appreciate the value of their own grandparents and relatives who still know the languages.

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Students at the UND Broome Campus
As they evaluated the unit, students came up with the following comments.

  • "Studying this unit makes you realise what the old people are complaining about when hey tell us that we should learn the languages. Those who know the languages are getting old and they could still teach them if the younger ones are willing to learn."
  • "If more Aboriginal people studied this unit, they might understand about language loss and be encouraged to act now to save their own languages before it's too late."
  • "The research project made us go to members of the local Aboriginal community to gather information, and we were surprised to find out how much our relatives had to tell and how interesting it was."
  • "One of the important topics was how sounds are made and the differences between sound in Aboriginal languages and English, and learning how to write words in the local languages. Mary of the indigenous names used for places or organisations have been spelt wrongly. Just using an Aboriginal name is not enough, people need to dig deeper and find out more about what is needed to preserve their languages."
  • "It helped to learn about the large number of languages across Australia, and the Torres Strait Islands, and find out how different they are."
  • "We got a new understanding of history and culture of Aboriginal people as we looked into the way languages function."

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Students at the UND Broome Campus
The SSABSA publication Australia's Indigenous Languages (book and CD - ROM) is used as a text. Students found these two items easy to use and helpful as they worked through the topics.

Linguist Joyce Hudson has written this unit, and delivers the lectures each year. She is not an indigenous person, but has worked in the Kimberley with Aboriginal people for 30 years, and spent many of those years learning the Walmajarri language.

You can find out about the University of Notre Dame Australia, by accessing the web site:

http://www.broome.nd.edu.au
or phone (08) 9192 0600
If you'd prefer, please write to:
PO Box 2287
Broome WA 6725