Positive directions set PDF Print E-mail

THE development of State Policies for Indigenous languages was a key issue at FATSIL's National Indigenous Languages Forum in Sydney. The audience, which included representatives from language projects around Australia, heard of the lead set by New South Wales in drafting policy to protect Indigenous languages, and the steps being taken in other States to follow suit.

 

In his opening address, Dr Andrew Refshauge, NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, outlined the reasons for his Government accepting its responsibility to support the preservation of the State's Indigenous languages.

"We must not forget that the fundamental reason for the state of Indigenous languages is the policies, practices and attitudes of past governments and generations - when not only was Aboriginal culture and heritage denigrated, but Aboriginal people were actively prevented from learning or passing on their languages."

Dr Refshauge said that his Government had recognised that it can play a major role in ensuring the revival and long-term survival of Aboriginal languages and has taken steps to support this work by developing the NSW Aboriginal Languages Policy, the first in Australia.

"Aboriginal self-determination is NSW Government Policy, and it is the cornerstone of the Languages Policy. By working with Aboriginal people to maintain their languages, and providing communities with the resources and support to undertake this work, we are giving back something that was taken from them so long ago.

We will be committed to community ownership of all initiatives — in particular where languages is taught, who teaches it and to whom.

All over the world, western nations are attempting to redress this situation by passing legislation and enacting policies and programs designed to preserve the languages of their Indigenous peoples."

By working with Aboriginal people to maintain their languages, and providing communities with the resources and support to undertake this work, we are giving back something that was taken from them so long ago — Dr Refshauge

FATSIL Chairperson Lester Coyne was pleased to report that the issue of language policies has now appeared on the agenda of MCATSIA — the Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Affairs, and will be followed up by consultations with Ministers at State and Federal level.

New Language Centre for NSW

DR Refshauge also announced that the Government has committed more than I million dollars over four years for the establishment of a NSW Aboriginal Languages Centre.

Annual funding of $279,000 would be allocated to set up the language resource centre and fund communities wanting to undertake projects. The new centre will employ three skilled staff to give technical-linguistic advice, mentoring, training and research assistance to people and communities who seek to revive, maintain and teach traditional Aboriginal languages.

The Centre will establish an Internet database, which will link information on Aboriginal languages statewide.
There will be seed funding for communities to be able to develop programs, as well as funding from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) Grants Program to support community language initiatives.

"We have an opportunity to assist Aboriginal people and communities in reviving traditional languages. This funding and new policy is a strong start." Dr Refshauge said.