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August 2004 in Canberra

'The trip to AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies) [during the 2004 Sharing Workshop] seemed not so useful at the time, but it is now seen as invaluable.'

Dhurga Language Program team member

A three-day workshop in Canberra was organised to allow the language teams to come together and share their experiences of developing their units of work in preparation for implementing the new Aboriginal Languages K–10 Syllabus. The main aim of the workshop was to promote networking between the school and community language teams and other professionals engaged in the field of language reclamation, and to allow the language teams to showcase and discuss their individual language programs. During this time, the language teams were supported in their language research and in programming their units of work. It was also a professional development exercise for those involved in the project, as the workshop included professionals involved in Aboriginal language reclamation from around the state.

This workshop was a very successful event and some of the outcomes of this workshop included:

  • the language teams sharing information about their programs and progress
  • an opportunity to work with a range of teaching, language and linguistic experts resulting in the collaborative development of teaching programs and strategies
  • discussions on the role of language teaching methodologies on effective teaching
  • participation in discussion about school-based Aboriginal language programs, examining the place of schools within an overall consideration of language maintenance and revival.

This time together allowed each school community group to discuss their language journey so far, and the positive aspects and challenges of the project with the whole group.

General issues

As well as the issues identified by individual schools, participants felt some general challenges were faced by all communities involved in language programs. For example, participants felt very strongly about Aboriginal language teachers, including their possible level of language and teaching knowledge, skills and qualifications. The discussion also revolved around:

  • how the community would choose language teachers
  • the employment of Aboriginal people in teaching positions by schools
  • people in these positions receiving consultancy support
  • training and development programs to allow Aboriginal community members to be upskilled to teach language
  • adequate access to resources to support school and regional language projects.

Other issues explored during the three days that all the language teams were together included:

  • the possibility of the Department of Education and Training actively encouraging school principals to implement an Aboriginal language program in their schools
  • raising the profile of Aboriginal languages in both the general community and the Aboriginal community by providing information in school newsletters about the benefits of learning an Aboriginal language
  • the importance of having linguists and those with professional and technical expertise in the revitalisation of Indigenous languages actively involved in school and community language programs
  • the importance of understanding the process of language revitalisation, and the steps in the process. This allows a school and community to build a realistic picture of what resources are currently available, how they may be used to begin a language program, and what timeframe will be needed to develop further resources
  • developing a mentoring relationship with other communities and schools that have begun, or would like to begin, a school/community language program
  • the importance of linking into community-based language revitalisation programs.
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