Torres Strait lslander Languages PDF Print E-mail

The problem has been linked directly to language communication barriers between the Torres Strait Islander children, and the non-indigenous education system.

The Torres Strait Islander students are strong speakers of Yumpla Tok, or Torres Strait Island Creole, which has been a communication link between the fluent speakers of the Island's traditional languages, who are now the community elders, and the English speaking community.

In the school system, the lack of recognition of language difference and varying language needs of individual students has been a major contributor to poor achievement of T.S.I. students within the education system.

An alternative education program has been developed at Magani Malu Kes to support these children who aren't achieving or who have dropped out of the education system. The children are offered a place in the centres' program by which they are tutored through the Distance Education Unit and supported by the resource workers at Magani. Over 80 students have registered and this year has seen a constant attendance by 12 to 15 students.

Two of the boys have this year progressed to high achievement in their senior studies with the language support offered by the program, after being labeled failures in the mainstream education system.

Education Queensland policy regarding support for Indigenous students, and their language and education needs is that each Principal has the discretion to decide on what is to be made available in their own school.

Coordinator at Magani Malu Kes, Brett Geary, has been making contact with all the school Principals in the area, to educate them about the issues surrounding language barriers and educational outcomes, and to make them aware of the services available through the program at Magani.

While it is the wish of many of the community elders that the traditional languages of the Torres Straits are taught to children to ensure that the languages and traditions survive, the community also recognizes the practical
need for their students to learn English in school, to a standard which allows them to compete and achieve alongside the non- Indigenous students.

As many of the children in this region have by necessity learned Yumpla Tok as a first language, there is a clear need for the education system to address the specific language needs of those students and to provide learning support from appropriately qualified teachers and teacher aids.