Landmark for languages as FATSIL takes place at Canberra education forum PDF Print E-mail

IN a positive outcome resulting from this year's Canberra consultations, FATSIL was recently invited to take part in the National Roundtable on Languages Education, called by the Minister for Education, Science and Training.

After submitting a number of proposals this year to the Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, the peak body was offered representation at the national conference, called to review the School Languages Programme from 2005 on, and progress implementation of languages education programmes.

FATSIL New South Wales delegate and Chief Education Officer with the Aboriginal Curriculum Unit of the Board of Studies NSW, Kevin Lowe, represented the organisation at the Canberra meeting.

Mr Lowe stressed the need for the Government to correct previous oversights in its policy development process.
"The point to be made to the members of this committee is that non-indigenous people have been speaking for us for too long and the time is overdue for this practice to stop. In terms of directing the future allocation of education dollars, it's imperative that the needs of Indigenous communities are conveyed to the government through our participation at this decision making level."

FATSIL Chairperson Lester Coyne, who attended the initial Canberra meeting at the Minister's office, was confident that the peak body's inclusion at the national forum will pave the way for continued progress in Government negotiations throughout the next year.

"FATSIL has been directed by its members to let Government know at every opportunity that our languages are being neglected by those in power. I'm pleased to be able to say that negotiations with Government are starting to bear fruit, and as the year goes on, we'll hopefully be able to announce other positive outcomes."

Some issues covered in the forum discussions were:

  • Determining the most appropriate source for Australian Government funding to support Indigenous languages — the Indigenous Education Specific Initiatives Programme (IESIP) or the School Languages Programme?
  • Ensuring that any changes should not result in a reduction of Australian Government funding for Indigenous languages.
  • Acknowledging that schools must not unilaterally drive Aboriginal language projects — need to work side by side with communities.
  • Irrespective of funding source, national planning for languages education needs to include Indigenous languages.

FATSIL negotiates for Indigenous teaching fellowships.

The Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training has voiced support for FATSIL's proposal to fund training for Indigenous language teachers, in line with the Government's $4 million language teaching fellowship program.

Representing FATSIL at the National Roundtable on Languages Education in Canberra, NSW delegate Kevin Lowe called on the Government to amend the current guidelines for the allocation of the fellowships, which currently limit grants to teachers of non- Australian languages.

The program provides international experience for teachers of major non-English languages taught in schools, providing intensive cultural and language training in the relevant country.

The Minister acknowledged the department's need to address the concerns of the peak body, and provide funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teachers to boost linguistic and cultural expertise.

FATSIL will continue discussions with the Department, to draft appropriate guidelines for a program of Indigenous language teaching fellowships.