Ensuring the survival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages into the 21st century
Tim Shopen | Friends of Bilingual Education, Australian National University
Nicholas Reid | Friends of Bilingual Education, Australian National University
Glenda Shopen | Friends of Bilingual Education, Australian National University
David Wilkins | Friends of Bilingual Education, Australian National University
There were over 200 distinct languages in Australia at the time of European settlement. Today less than 40 of these are still being passed on to new generations, and all of these are under threat of extinction. Aboriginal people are struggling to adapt themselves to the massive European presence without losing their identity. The greatest threat to Aboriginal languages is the physical, economic and social situation in which their speakers find themselves. Language maintenance will not be possible without social maintenance and this in turn is a political issue. The most important factor will be the success of Aboriginal people in gaining control and self-reliance in their communities. The government can help by assisting in a program of self-determination where Aboriginal people participate at least equally with others in decisions concerning priorities and funding, and in addition by educating non-Aboriginal people to the value of the Aboriginal part of our cultural heritage. Aboriginal teacher education is of primary importance with the goal of schools with Aboriginal control where Aboriginal teachers develop the curriculum and the pedagogy. It is in this context that bilingual education can be put to best use. Bilingual education is of great importance but it must be used not just to assimilate Aboriginal children more easily into English and Western schooling but to have Aboriginal languages and English used together in a coherent educational program where the children become strong in two languages and in the academic and cultural skills they need for contemporary life. Like education, media has the potential for strengthening Aboriginal languages and oultures as well as for destroying them. The outcome will depend on the extent to which Aboriginal people themselves can control what is broadcast and printed.
Published online: 01 January 1987
Commonwealth Schools Commission and the National Aboriginal Education Committee
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations
National Aboriginal Education Committee
National Population Inquiry
Poulson, C.J., T.N. Ross, T.J. Shopen and P.J. Toyne
Cited by 1 other publications
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