REPORT SPEAKS VOLUMES ON ABORIGINAL LANGUAGES FUTURE
Congress says the recommendations from a Parliamentary Committee inquiry reinforce Congress’s priority to address the crisis in protecting and maintaining Aboriginal languages.
Congress Co-Chair Jody Broun congratulated the committee on their report, “Our Land Our Languages”, saying that almost every point in the Congress submission is included in the Committee’s recommendations.
“The Committee has listened and its report highlights the critical state of our languages, citing the decline in funding in real terms since 2005 as equating to ‘…a slow death by neglect for many Indigenous languages’.
“We await the Government’s response as to how it intends to implement the recommendations from the report, and urge them to significantly increase language resourcing accordingly.
“The report acknowledges what many told the Committee: that language is not an optional extra but central to our peoples’ lives, and that learning an Aboriginal language enhances Aboriginal children’s English language learning.
“As Congress member Gregoriana Parker told us, ‘Tiwi ngawa nginingawula ngini ngapangiranga. Ngarra amanuwani kapi ngawa kakirijuwi ngini pimatamungu-rumi ngini wuta Tiwi. Ngarra ngawa warntirrana ngini wunuwaluwa nginigawula kapi jukurli kapi ngini-ngawula murrakupuni apingimi.’ (Tiwi is our first language. It helps our kids to understand who they are. It’s important that it is taught in our schools in communities too.)”
Congress Director Venessa Curnow presented the Congress submission to the committee.
“Congress worked hard to ensure our members and member organisations who are experts in these areas were instrumental in developing a strong, evidence based report to the committee on the necessity for major improvements to language learning, maintenance and revival,” said Director Curnow.
“We particularly welcome the acknowledgement of the fundamental role and importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in improving outcomes in the Closing the Gap framework, given the centrality of language to strong culture.
“We also note the Committee’s support of the proposal to include the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the Constitution,” she said.
Co-Chair Broun stressed the importance of vital living languages – not remnants of extinct languages – being recognised as a unique part of Australian heritage and culture.
“Congress will continue to advocate for the essential national coordination required to support the many regional language centres who have worked tirelessly for the better part of 25 years,” she said.
Jeanette Crew, Wamba Wamba speaker and Chairperson of Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Deniliquin thanked Congress for all its hard work.
“We are also excited by the prospect of good support for local languages”, she said.
“Werreka Wamba Wamba – kuli kalpel.” (Speaking my language brings my people together.)
Link to the final report from the House Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Stait Islander Affairs “Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities” here.