Students tell us what they think PDF Print E-mail
The student letterwriter, classmates and teachers
The student letterwriter, classmates and teachers
Last December, twenty students, of whom eighteen are indigenous, decided to spend two weeks learning about Australian Indigenous Languages. The compact South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE) program was held at Nunkurarrin Yunti, and as part of their final assessment the students were asked to select a magazine and write a letter to the the editor, sharing their views on the value of Indigenous Languages.

The program was divided into two parts: the study of a particular local language — either Kaurna, Ngarrindjeri, or Pitjantjatjara; and the study of general aspects of Australian Indigenous Languages - such as linguistic features of Indigenous languages, and the relationship between language, culture, and identity.

The local language part was taught by three experts, Rhonda Agius, Cherie Watkins, and Nancy Sheppard.

This compact SACE program was developed by the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South
Australia, as part of it's a. Education Strategy.Although Australian Indigenous Languages is available as a subject at both Stage I and Stage 2, many schools find it difficult to offer this subject.Teachers of Australian Indigenous Languages are hard to find.

"We thought that if the subject were offered in one place, and as a compact course, then it may
attract a number of students to study this subject" said Linda Clayton, Project Officer for the Aboriginal Education Strategy.

"We were over the moon about the response! It just goes to show that language is a crucial issue among Indigenous students. And they were quite clear and strong about their views!"

Here is a selection of excerpts from the students' letters:

 ..... .Firstly Australia prides itself as being a multicultural society, this should especially include the various Australian Indigenous language, as other cultural groups. If Australia's Indigenous languages as well as the people lose their languages they will be gone forever with nobody speaking these unique languages.

Secondly, for many Indigenous people to lose their language is to deny them their identity and soul which is very significant to all Indigenous people. It also makes Australia very significant because when non-indigenous people's come to Australia they want to learn about Indigenous people's culture and language which helps with the reconciliation process.

Finally, language enhances Indigenous people's cultural knowledge, history and dreaming. Languages are the storehouses of knowledge and contribute immensely to a heritage that belongs to all Australians.

Yours sincerely
Jarah Colbung

Dear Editor

I live in Adelaide, I am 15 years old and I am proud to be Aboriginal. My mother is Aboriginal and my father is non-Aboriginal. My mother comes from Pillora, Western Australia and we are from the Ngarluma mob. Among the Ngarluma people there is only one Elder who can speak Ingunbundi fluently.

There is a strong demand in many Indigenous communities throughout Australia for language survival. Many Indigenous people are aware of their culture and their people, but what about their language? Is it strong or still alive? HARDLY! Languages have died and a majority of Indigenous people wish to regain it, and bring it back.

Language is slowly coming back with more schools teaching them, language centres being organised, language courses etc, Indigenous bands and dance groups are using their language to communicate and help bring back language into the community.

I am currently participating in a language course provided by SSABSA and I love it. I am currently studying Ngarrindjeri to update my knowledge of the Ngarrindjeri people and their language. I believe more courses like this should be provided for anyone interested in Indigenous languages to help bring them back because language is a part of everybody.

Australian Indigenous languages, like all languages, are valuable. They express identity, culture and respect.

It is important to keep Indigenous languages alive because:

• It's our history (vital part of Australia's heritage)
• We need diversity
• Express identity. self esteem and cultural respect
• Human knowledge and social identification
• All languages are interesting in themselves.

I strongly believe that it is very important to keep Aboriginal languages alive as it is a part of Australia's history and therefore it will enable people to have a better understanding of Aboriginal culture.

Yours sincerely
Abbey Shillingford

...... Due to their important place in history and in maintaining identity, indigenous languages are vital . Respect to the issue of reconciliation for and recognition of indigenous languages would mean a further step toward unity amongst all Australian, as it would also be respect for the Indigenous community. Diversity in today's multicultural society has become an important way of life for all Australians, and it has become evident that Indigenous languages are just as important, if not more important than any other languages in this country. These languages are part of Australia, and cannot be found anywhere else.

It has become my firm belief that the maintenance of Indigenous languages is integral to keeping Aboriginal culture alive and to the process of healing and reconciliation. These languages are part of all of our past, and of us, and if we do not keep them alive, not only do Indigenous people lose an important part of their identity. but Australia lose part of themselves.

Yours sincerely,
Joanne O'Connor

...... The truth is that each generation of young people is being taught English before their Indigenous language. It is important that we pass it on to each generation, in which we maintain the language. It is quite alright for Indigenous people to speak English, but we must realise that we are losing our languages.

Indigenous languages are unique and are only spoken here in Australia. It is important to keep languages alive, because they are not spoken anywhere eke in the world. If they are lost, they will be gone forever. Indigenous languages are decreasing. the hypothesis is that our Indigenous languages will be gone by the year 2040 according to today's linguists.

If we don't know our language, then really we don't have any culture. The combination of land and language brings forth our culture. If we don't have our language, we cannot entitle ourselves to our land. So we end up losing everything including our culture. Keeping our Indigenous languages helps us build on our identity. It also unites the Indigenous group by co
operating with each other on certain aspects of the language and culture.

Overall, it is very important to keep Indigenous languages alive or we will lose them forever.

Yours sincerely
Sid Graham
Hillcrest, S.A.

The languages of the Indigenous people are much more than a way of communicating. A language is the major link from the people to the land around them. to the people of their group and to their past, present and future.

The amount of knowledge the Indigenous community holds about our country is amazing and as a non-Indigenous person I can say that they could teach us about its history, how to respect the land and how we could use certain medicines. Generally, just teach us to be caring people that
many of us have forgotten how to be.

Another point, and perhaps one of the most important is Reconciliation. Keeping these languages alive could support this in many ways. First of all it would help non-Indigenous people understand the Indigenous community. understand their life now and what it was many years ago.

Australia is best known for being a multicultural country. We have many different people who follow many different cultures. We allow them to live their life and we even encourage that their language is learnt in schools, so why do we deny the people in our own country the opportunity to be understood and expressed?

Yours sincerely
Nicole Petrie
Modbury North, S.A.