May 02, 2012

NT Govt claims "Indigenous language a clear focus"

I'm currently listening live to the Darwin hearing of the Federal Government's inquiry into Language Learning in Indigenous Communities and it's gripping stuff (for me, anyway).

The NT Government spoke first this morning and swiftly issued a media release claiming 'Indigenous a clear focus of the Government '. The sentiments are noble and there are certainly some nice projects going on, but for the NT Government to claim it has "clear focus on Indigenous language" is a bit hard to swallow. Yesterday the NT Government handed down their budget and a flurry of self-promoting press releases soon followed. I searched through the 22 press releases and couldn't find a single mention of Indigenous languages.

Furthermore, it's worth reiterating that anything the NT Government does for Indigenous languages is undermined by the "Compulsory Teaching in English for the First Four Hours of Each School Day" policy.

Apologies and respect to Minister Malarndirri McCarthy, who spoke very well at today's hearing, but I'm genuinely puzzled as to how and why DET and NT Government supports this policy. It does not lead to any demonstrable benefits. Gary Barnes pretty much told the inquiry today that schools can ignore it. The NT Government has admitted this policy was introduced badly. Marion Scrymgour said it was "put together in a few days". It's been criticised widely from all sorts of people ever since its inception - even right up to the UN. Why do Indigenous students and remote teachers still have to deal with this policy? It is demeaning to Indigenous languages and therefore demeaning to Indigenous people who hold their languages as an vital part of their identity.

A transcript of today's hearing will be available on the website within a week or so.

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