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Aboriginal English

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this resource may contain images and voices of deceased persons.

The BOSTES would like to acknowledge that some of the video clips used in this resource have been reproduced from the Education Department of Western Australia's resource, Ways of Being, Ways of Talk (2007) with their permission.

The NSW school curriculum is generally taught through the medium of Standard Australian English. Teachers speak in English, whether they are teaching English, Mathematics or Business Studies. Textbooks for every learning area are written in English.

Yet many students do not speak the English used by teachers and textbooks, they speak other varieties of English which, though they seem superficially quite similar, are different in ways that can lead to serious miscommunication. This has serious implications for education because it means that many students are expected to speak, to learn and to be literate in a variety of English they do not use at home or within their local community. This resource is designed to help all educators to teach speakers of Aboriginal English more effectively.

In this resource you can learn more about what Aboriginal English is, why classroom miscommunication occurs and what to do about it. But first, find out more about Aboriginal English speakers in NSW.

Anthony Galluzzo, a Wiradjuri man from Narrandera, talks about his use of Aboriginal English.


I know if I’m talking to my nephews who, and being mindful that they do have a non-Aboriginal father and an Aboriginal mother, I think it’s important that I speak to them  and talk to them, making them be proud of who they are on both sides, but it’s something that I’m mindful of is that when I’m talking to them that I convey the messages of Aboriginal English and its importance because I think the message is that it’s part of who we are and that’s how we can communicate and to keep that strong identity going.

So something that I always like to say, if they are doing something then I might say 'Oh deadly, unc’ or ‘You’re doing a deadly job, unc’, or if I’m talking to a cousin or a nephew or a cousin brother, if you are looking at that sense, I might say something like ‘Ooh, deadly bra’, or ‘Shame job, that’s very shame’ or ‘Shame over dere’ or something like that.

Rhonda Ashby, a Gamilaraay woman, talks about the validity and uniqueness of Aboriginal English.


In a classroom situation, Aboriginal English, I’ll explain to the kids that it’s not a wrong way of speaking language; language comes in many different styles and Aboriginal English is one of those. It’s a unique form of language, with our traditional language taken away from us, I guess in one sense, we still use some of those unique sounds which are blended into the Standard English that is used today.

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