November 26, 2009

former Senator Aden Ridgeway writing articles in English and Gumbaynggirr

When was the last time you saw a piece in major daily newspaper written in both English and an Indigenous language? This is from Aden Ridgeway, who was a Senator in the Australian Parliament a few years back - one of the few Indigenous politicians that ever made to Canberra. (Noel Pearson has never made it that far!) Aden adds his voice to those critical of the NT Govt. policies on English teaching and Indigenous teaching education. Good article!

Please read it by following the link. (Copyright dictates I'm not allowed to post the text here...)

November 09, 2009

an ethical dilemma...

Background: I'm still here at Kalkarindji where alcohol is banned from the community, as it was before and after the Australian Government's Intervention. There's a club here where you can go to have a beer after work, but only if you've been to work that day.

Situation: There are two visiting tradesmen (white (kartiya)) staying near where I am who are having a quiet drink after work. They are breaking one of the laws introduced across most of the Territory when the Intervention came into being.

Ethical Dilemma: Do I say something to the Federal Government rep who lives here when I'm on my way out of town or do I let it go? (There are quite a few pros and cons which I won't go into... I'm hoping I'll get some responses that will flesh them out anyway...)

Back at Kalkarindji


I'm in Kalkarindji for a week, delivering one of the language courses I teach to a small group of local woman who mostly work at the school. Today was the first day and it was a decent start to the week. The ladies seem keen and already skilled. Some speak Gurindji really well and have good literacy skills already. There are heaps of Gurindji books at the school and I brought a stack with me too. All really positive news - a fairly well resourced language with fairly strong speakers who are fairly literate and are fairly motivated. What more can you ask for?

The school has been really helpful and given students release to do their coursework and given us space in the library to do our work, so I have nothing but good things to say. But something interesting did happen when I was talking to a staff member about how exciting it is to have so much there all ready to capitalise on for a language and culture program. I was trying to tell them that here at Kalkarindji it's a similar situation to Numbulwar which has had the fortune of a well-funded program for decades now while Kalkarindji seems to have missed out. Numbulwar is a two-way school, you see. Oops, I mentioned the T-word which caused a bit of a reaction and I had to backpeddle and explain my point another way! Just lucky I didn't mention the 'B'-word!!

Also curious to note is that I was discouraged away from anything that might involve developing Gurindji literacy activities in the classroom... It seemed to be cloaked in pedagogical reasoning (e.g. oral language learning is better, using video is a great tool), but I have an inkling that there is a certain 4-Hours of English policy in the back of people's minds causing an 'oh-no, we can't have concerted efforts at quality teaching of an Indigenous language, including literacy and all!'...

... or maybe it's just that the timetable is so bloody full that, yet again, there's just no time for language and culture programs.

... if only imminent language death was motivation for drastic action, but no... doesn't seem that way. :-(

... at least I get to work with some deadly language workers again tomorrow!

PS. I had a pesky political thought today... there's a small stream of linguists that have/do come and go through Kalkarindji. Maybe we need to all come together at the same time here in Kalkarindji for a week to create a critical mass of Kartiya that are more interested in maintaining Gurindji traditions than replacing them. (A mini on-site Gurindji language forum... get the McNair's here and everything!) Wouldn't that be fun!

September 11, 2009

Stoopid Hendo

So every schoolkid in Australia had their English literacy tested and of course NT did pretty crap - to be expected really given how many ESL kids we have (who go 'untreated' in the classroom, i.e. no ESL methodologies employed) and how thin resources get spread. Our Chief Minister Paul Henderson said something rather disturbing about it (as reported on ABC news website):

Henderson talks up NT education results

The Northern Territory Education Minister, Paul Henderson, says national testing results represent a small step forward in the performance of NT students, and shine a light on areas that need improvement.

The National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, or NAPLAN, results show the Northern Territory has performed the worst of all Australia's jurisdictions.

But Mr Henderson, who is also the Chief Minister, says he sees encouraging signs of improvement in the Territory compared with last year's results.

He says it is not necessarily appropriate to draw a direct comparison with other states and territories.

"There have been slight improvements this year, but they have been improvements.

"To compare the performance of the Territory as a whole - with 33 per cent of our students Indigenous and 80 per cent of those students in very remote schools - with the performance of urban Sydney is somewhat anomalous."


Um, excuse me can we just look at that last bit again...

"To compare the performance of the Territory as a whole - with 33 per cent of our students Indigenous and 80 per cent of those students in very remote schools - with the performance of urban Sydney is somewhat anomalous."

Is he saying the NT does bad on these tests because one third of our students are Indigenous????? WTF!

July 18, 2009

May 29, 2009

Another video - this time in Yolŋu Matha - rather powerful

Hey I came across another video chock-full of language. This time it's Yolŋu Matha and it's not a language learning video. It's a powerful message from an Arnhem Land homeland, from someone clearly and rightfully disturbed by the latest government policy that leans towards developing big communities (already often barely functional) and against homelands/outstations (often places where family groups live peacefully, happily and healthily while maintaining language and cultural traditions). It's worth a viewing. Here's the message from the mob that posted the video:

Created in response to the Northern Territory and Federal Government's continued attempts to close down Indigenous Homeland communities.

Yolngu and other Indigenous people have been living on their Homelands since before Settlement. Since missionary days they have asserted their desire to remain on their own traditional country. Most people thought this right was enshrined in the Land Rights Act (NT).

However, current and recent Government policies have been effectively coercing Yolngu and other Indigenous people off their country. These measures include rolling back basic services to Homelands, and closing schools while simultaneously linking school attendance to parental social service payments.

May 24, 2009

Ngapartji Ngapartji and online language lessons

While in Alice I was lucky enough to visit the Ngapartji Ngapartji office and meet a couple of the people involved in it. Just one of the things they are doing is making nice little language lessons. This one was availalble online. The language is Pitjantjatjara. (I'm assuming!!)

Docker River Language Lesson from alex kelly on Vimeo.

Neat huh?

May 16, 2009

nga-rlindiyi na-mbarnduwa-yurr

(Marra - I'm going to Mparntwe (Alice Springs))

I'm off to Alice tomorrow for another week of teaching. It'll be freezing!! Yikes.

I like Alice though. I love that you hear people talking language all the time, everywhere, unselfconsciously. Because I've worked on very endangered languages for so long, my instinct is to stick a recording device in front of their face before valuable data gets lost into the ether, but then I realise that there's no need to do that with languages that are still viable. (viable, yet still virtually ignored by wider society).

Even though I'm enjoying my work, I've been missing Ngukurr and working out bush in general more and more lately. I think I'm over the burnout I was feeling two years ago and now I'm just feeling rather displaced from knowing how communities work and remembering what's important to people living in communities. I've become another whitefella who flies in and out (so-to-speak), hoping that what I do has some impact, but really not knowing if that's the case. What's worse, is that I think I've forgotten *how* to work out bush. I'm too comfy watching Austar and playing sport twice a week and sleeping in our new king size bed and cruising around Katherine on a scooter - I've forgotten that I can actually give all this up and reap alternative benefits by spending time in communities with some of the wonderful people that live there.

I think in the mid-semester break, I might try and do a bit of a tour of the region for two weeks - catching up with students in a low-pressure environment and hopefully getting a few more people interested in doing language courses. :-)

Oh, and a functioning language centre to support my students would be a big help too.

May 08, 2009

Barunga women and a bit of Kriol on YouTube

Here's a little YouTube video featuring two deadly women from Barunga. It starts off in Kriol then goes into English, thanks to MK's wonderful English. If you watch it, you'll notice them being wonderful, but also a bit tongue-in-cheek, especially that Bangûrn. She's awesome.


April 26, 2009

off to Batchelor

Well I'm off to Batchelor for the week to deliver another workshop.

Except I'm totally unprepared for this one due to spending 2.5 days at Timber Creek and 1 day at Mataranka last week. Luckily I'm a clever chicken and will hopefully be able to think up some fun stuff and 'effective training activities' for my students to do. :-)

I have five students doing Cert 1 in Own Language Work and their languages are Mayali, Rembarrnga and Dalabon. Hope it goes well! Wish me luck...

It better go well, otherwise I'll be spewing come Thursday that I'm not in Katherine playing Netball. Actually, I'll be spewing about that regardless. I have an unhealthy passion for netball. To the point where I'm ready to singlehandedly put together an NT mens side so that I can start playing in the national competitions! heheheh....

When I'm totally over this linguist gig, I'm retiring to become a full-time tennis nerd and netball nerd. Now there's a career aspiration!

April 21, 2009

hooray for Timber Creek

In the tradition of the Simpsons episode that featured the "hooray for everything" group, I'm saying "hooray for Timber Creek".

I've been here in Timber Creek for 2 days for an Indigenous Language and Culture workshop organised by the Education Department. (There's still a few of them there who still care about Indigenous Language and Culture!). The best part is that it's lots of new stuff for me. Being in Timber Creek is new for me. Being around people from places west of Katherine is new for me. And at the workshop, I've met people from Kalkarindji, Yarralin, Bulla, Pigeon Hole and Lajamanu - some places I've never been to. And there were people who speak languages that I've never really heard before or much of which was new and exciting for a language nerd like me - Jaminjung and Ngarinyman I've heard a little bit, but I've heard lots more the past two days and there was a Bilinarra speaker, Gurindji and Warlpiri speakers and then when this mob speak their creole there's a lot of language mixed in and it's really different from the creole the mob from Ngukurr speak.

All very exciting for a language nerd like me.

Hooray for Timber Creek! Ngaliwurru country. (I think!)

March 15, 2009

natha lil article

Here's another little article with a good friend and fellow blogger featured.

Good one Yujini!

February 27, 2009

Wurrpparn wurrpparn

Here's the Rembarrnga version of Baa Baa Black Sheep that my students made this week in class:

Wurrpparn wurrpparn
Da-noettoe garlang-na?
Woh woh woh woh gurlppurr jerrh ga-jubul
Wangginy nyarran-nawoe-gan
Wangginy ngalan-nawoe-gan
Wangginy bori ganyangh-gan ga-nura Wugularr

hehe... neat!

The direct translation:

Emu, emu,
Do you have eggs?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, three dillybags full.
One for it's father
One for it's mother
One for it's little boy who lives at Beswick

February 15, 2009

news from me!

Well it's been a while since I posted about me and what's been going on. And as per usual, there's always a lot going on...

I had the best, most rejuvenating, coolest week at work last week. I was lecturing first-year linguistics students at Batchelor while in neighbouring classrooms the second and third years were also deeply involved in their linguistics studies. It is just so fantastic to be around a great group of people who are all determined and passionate about their language. And such a diverse bunch - from every part of Australia, young and old, experienced and new (in terms of doing language work), fluent speakers and those trying to get their language back. But the link between them all is the passion for their own language which is really inspiring considering considering how tough it can be for Indigenous languages in this country.

So now I'm back in Katherine and procrastinating. I'm supposed to be writing a funding submission and an article for a journal. The first one is for an exciting project but unfortunately writing funding submissions is always a chore. The second job (the article) is pretty cool - I'm writing about language revitalisation at Ngukurr. I've found it really quite challenging because I haven't done anything remotely like academic writing since University which is a long time ago now! It's such a slow process when you actually have to do some research and not just say what you think. Phew.

Speaking of language revitalisation at Ngukurr - my article is not going to be like the one being delivered at an international conference that doesn't have anything good to say about the language program me and the Ngukurr language workers ran at Ngukurr school for 3 years.... but that's another story and probably one i shouldn't air on here...

The wet season is in full swing in Katherine which means the heat is off and the rain is on and the weeds are growing and so is the mould in my house. Waaaah! I think I'll just employ a full-time gardener and cleaner so that I can procrastinate with less guilt.

But all in all, life's good, work's good and I have no complaints. I saw a movie called Young@Heart last night which was wonderful. Team that up with a movie called 'Happy-go-lucky' and I'll never complain again. Those movies are good medicine.

February 04, 2009

Newsflash! Marion Scrymgour removed as NT Education Minister

I just heard that Marion Scrymgour, who's been causing me and others grief with bad education policies has been removed and replaced by Paul Henderson. (see here).

Hopefully this is good news for bilingual education, for Indigenous language education and for remote education in general. Marion was obviously concerned about these things, but never seemed to do her research (or just got bad advice) and her policies of late were misguided and ill-informed. Fingers crossed for positive change.

Now I just hope that others who are in a position of power in a certain local organisation are next in line to be removed. Their actions aren't doing anyone any good at all.

February 03, 2009

Quote from 1825

Here's my favourite quote for today:

"Perhaps the Aborigines think that there is an innate deficiency in the bulk of white men's skulls which prevents their attainment of the native language."

- Lancelot Threlkeld, 1825, rebutting a French anthropologist who 'confirmed' the 'innate deficiency' of Aboriginal people based on head measurements. (Quoted in Harris, John (1990) One Blood - 200 years of Aboriginal encounter with Christianity: A story of hope).

January 18, 2009

permanent writer's block?

well it's a new year. I'm feeling fresh. Life isn't bad at all, but for some reason I have total writer's block. I have plenty going through my little head and am still experiencing lots of things but my life and thoughts just refuse to be manifested in the written word.

I keep wracking my brain for blogposts. I have ideas but they never materialise into posts. I'm supposed to be writing an article for Batchelor Institute's neat little journal "Ngoonjook". I have plenty of ideas for that too, but so far I've got two half-page begininings of articles. wah!

On holidays, I discovered my Year 1,2 and 3 report cards. I was blown away by how little I've changed! My teacher repeatedly commented on how I was a good writer but that it was always hard getting me to write creatively. 25+ years later, and I'm still the same. (Did you know these days teachers aren't allowed to write negative comments on report cards? what the?)

So if anyone would like to give me a push like Mrs. Coombes used to do, please suggest a few topics for me - for blogposts and/or for a journal article (which doesn't need to be too scholarly, just interesting). Anyone? :-)