January 31, 2012

The NT is a hotmess

You couldn't make this stuff up.

Calling the police in the NT now goes to a centralised call centre in Darwin where the people who answer the calls have zero local knowledge. Elders in Lajamanu want to contact local community police but instead get a nitwit in Darwin asking ridiculous questions. (And would the police have Aboriginal language-speaking interpreters on stand-by? Don’t think so!). Nobody outside of Darwin wants this new centralised police call centre.

School starts today. Thousands of kids who speak Aboriginal languages are denied receiving an education in their own language. Attendance in remote schools is worse than ever and the Federal Government is rolling out the “No School, No Food” policy which has been shown to *not* work. The Ed. Dept is now recruiting teachers with no teaching qualifications, bringing in more outsiders who are clueless about working in remote Aboriginal Australia, even if their heart is in the right place.
The Australian Human Rights commission says the Super Shires might be worse than the intervention. From Mick Gooda:
I have not heard one person say anything positive about what has happened. People feel totally disempowered by it and if we don't do something about getting ... governance structures back into the communities, the outcome of this amalgamation will be probably worse than the Northern Territory Intervention.
Barack and Julia think it's all a bit of a laugh.
Darwin, 2011
Phase two of the Intervention, labelled “Stronger Futures”, is being put through parliament. A senate inquiry has begun and many in the NT just want to see the Intervention and its remnants gone for good. Take a look at the submission from Ramingining elders to see how those subjected to these policies feel:
The intervention has been here for 5 years and what did it do? We got fences on our houses, but no new houses. Not for Yolŋu, only Balanda. No extra jobs.

We want our right to self-determination. We don’t want to be controlled from the outside.

We want our community councils back, and our assets returned. We want to be able to have a say in the foundation of any laws that effect Yolŋu in our communities.

We want bilingual education brought back. Every study shows that it is better for our people. We want elders to have a say in curriculums so it is relevant to our lives.

…we need our laws to be recognised along with Balanda laws.Our law is the basis of our society. We want our law recognised. We want our law holders to be recognised.

We are the land holders in our communities.
It is our land, it is our community and it is subject to our law.
We will not be assimilated by these policies.
Meanwhile, our politicians are more worried about some bratty kids who burned a bit of fabric with some stars on it…
 … 3000kms away.

Ah, the magic of the NT. You’ll never never know, if you never never go.

January 11, 2012

Mums and aunties (if only it were that simple)

Hi everyone!

So I'm in Canberra at the moment trying to be a studious linguist and get this PhD done. I have my mid-term review coming up where I'll be giving a seminar about words you use in Marra and Kriol to talk about family (kinterms).

Can I just say, unequivocally, that Marra people have an amazingly complex way of talking about their family. I mean, I'm not surprised by this as Marra people, like all Aboriginal people, place so much importance on family and maintaining family relationships. But still, I'm slightly blown away by the kin terminology Marra people use. To demonstrate this, I'll try and explain how Marra people would talk about people who in English, we'd call mum or aunty:

So, if I was speaking Marra and wanted to call out to my mum or talk about my mum, I'd use the word gajirri. I'd also use this word if I was calling out to or talking about any of my mum's younger sisters. If I was calling out to or talking about my mum's big sisters, I'd need a different word: ngajamu. In English,  ngajamu would be my aunty. But, my father's sisters - who I'd also call aunty in English - are not my ngajamu or gajirri, but I'd call them barnarna.

So we have three words here:

gajirri (mother, mum's little sisters)
ngajamu (mum's big sisters)
barnarna (dad's sisters)

However, if I wanted to talk about the people that are *your* mother, mother's little and big sisters or your dad's sisters, I need different words:

bibi (your mother and her little sisters)
jamulmarr (your mother's big sisters)
marrimarr (your dad's sisters)

Then, if we're talking about someone else's mother, mother's sisters or dad's sisters, we need different words again:

garrnya (someone else's mother and her little sisters)
jamulnganja (someone else's mum's big sisters)
marringanja (someone else's dad's sisters)

Phew! And these are just nine of the 100 or so different kinterms used in the Marra language. Crazy and awesome.

P.S. Hi mum! :-)