Ngukurr community fight for languages to be taught in school PDF Print E-mail

"The N.T. Education Department has Aboriginal Language and Culture in its curriculum framework, but this is the only part of the curriculum that has no compulsory funding", says Greg Dickson, a Ngukurrbased linguist working for the Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre.

"This is a real shame because it means communities find it hard to implement language classes in their schools, even when the community support and infrastructure is already there."

The people of Ngukurr community look back to around nine distinct Aboriginal languages. Only two of them, Nunggubuyu and Ritharrngu (or Wagilak), are being passed on to children, but that is happening in other communities. At Ngukurr, children grow up speaking Kriol.

"Other communities in the region have `two-way' education, where traditional languages have a strong place in the school. But at Ngukurr the situation is difficult because we have a lot of languages and a lot of them are endangered. But this doesn't mean Ngukurr children should be deprived of the opportunity to learn their own languages in the school", Mr Dickson said.

Community member and language worker at the Ngukurr Language Centre, Godfrey Blitner, has been gathering community support by holding meetings with Elders and speakers from each language group,"Having language in school is important because it helps kids keep their identity. Kids learn about their country and it helps them understand language and culture. People in the community are really interested to do the work, but there is always something in the way."

With the winding up of the ASSPA (Aboriginal Student Support and Parent Awareness) funding at the end of 2004, money must now be accessed through a grant application process, whereas in the past, the community had a say over the use of funds within the program.

Money has been allocated towards Language in Schools through the NT Education Department in past years, but no decision as to future funding will be made until mid-year. "This is no help to people here at Ngukurr who are ready to teach their languages now", Mr Dickson said. Committee member of Ngukurr Language Centre, Eddie Chisholm, argues,"Kids in city schools can choose to learn Japanese, Indonesian or German. Our kids should have the same opportunity to learn their own languages."

Staff Contact:Robin Hodgson,
Co-ordinator 08 8971 1233

FATSIL Northern Territory delegate Sahardi Garling is consulting with communities in the region and investigating alternative methods to attract funding for language programs.