Aboriginal Languages schools PDF Print E-mail
The experiences and models of these language programs have made a significant contribution to the design and development of the new Aboriginal Languages K-10 Syllabus, as have successful language revival programs in other parts of Australia (eg the Kaurna language program in Adelaide) and Indigenous language communities in other countries.

The syllabus is a key step in the revival of Aboriginal Languages. The three overarching objectives of the syllabus —Using Language', `Making Linguistic Connections' and 'Moving Between Cultures' — acknowledge that acquiring communicative competence in an Aboriginal Language will occur in the context of language revitalisation. Students will develop skills to become active participants in language revival by being learners and users of language in daily interactions and by studying similarities and differences in the structure of Aboriginal Languages.To achieve this process of language revival, students will engage with Aboriginal communities and their linguistic resources.

The syllabus outcomes and content focus on developing students' knowledge of, understandings about and skills in Aboriginal languages. In this way, it has been possible to cater for the approximately 70 languages in NSW with one syllabus. A copy of the syllabus is available at www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/writing_briefs/#table.

Aunty Beryl Carmichael, whose traditional name is Yungha-dhu, is a Ngiyampaa Elder. She is the Aboriginal Language Support Officer in the Broken Hill District Office of the NSW Department of Education and a teacher on the Ngiyampaa-Baakindji Language Program. She was awarded a Centenary of Federation Medal for devotion to cultural awareness and contribution to Australian Society.

SP: What are some of your thoughts on the new syllabus?

BC: Aboriginal people feel that the time was ripe to produce such a document. It will give opportunities to a lot of people to learn their language, opportunities which they didn't have before; not only in schools but I hope also in adult colleges. It will be good for all people to know that it's a major part of our culture. There are a whole lot of important things that will come through the teaching of language — traditional stories, culture, songs and connection to land. It is the vital link that we need to maintain.

SP:1 notice that placenames are sprinkled throughout the content section of the syllabus.What do you think about placenames as part of learning Language?

BC:Placenames are very important for kids to learn about and gives them the whole feeling for a place.A lot has been passed down but hasn't been written in official records. Places already have names but learners need to get the full story behind each name to really understand them. For example Keewong means place where the moon camped' and there is a whole story behind it.

Uncle Stan Grant Snr is a Wiradjuri Elder. He established the Wiradjuri Language Development Centre and, for many years, has been instrumental in the revival of Wiradjuri language. He teaches Wiradjuri language classes to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in various towns and centres in Wiradjuri country. His work was featured on the ABC program Message Sticks on Sunday 18th May 2003.

SP: What are some of your thoughts on the new syllabus?

SG: The NSW Government is doing exactly the right thing by introducing Aboriginal Languages into the schools. This will increase children's self-esteem and sense of identity and help them understand who they are and where they come from. Their language is their country. Language belongs to the land, it is who you are.

SP: Do you teach people about placenames in your language programs?

SG:Yes, people in our classes are really interested in that. Learning about placenames gives non-Aboriginal people some idea of Aboriginal Languages and shows which names come from the language of the area.

Thanks to Placenames Australia and author Susan Poetsch for permission to reproduce this article. Placenames Australia is the newsletter of the Australian National Placenames Survey.
For more information contact Clair Hill, ANPS.

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