August 26, 2014
On Thursday 20th of August PhD student Sarah Verdon presented at the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) forum in Dubbo. The invited presentation was based upon research undertaken with professor Sharynne McLeod using the Footprints In Time: Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children. The research painted a positive and encouraging picture of children’s use of languages in the early years. Children in the study were found to speak between one and eight languages and one quarter were found to be speaking at lest one Indigenous language. The findings also highlighted the rich language learning environments that were provided to children in the study and the many people (including parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles) who were involved in supporting children’s language learning and literacy in the early years.
The findings of the study were well received by attendees at the forum with many commenting on the positive signs that the data showed for Indigenous language use and maintenance among Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The audience had many questions regarding the study and also many suggestions for how these data could be used to strengthen existing language revitalisation programs and to inform the development of future strategies for the preservation of Australia’s Indigenous language and cultures.
The forum was used to launch the “Recover, re-voice, re-practise” foundations framework and implementation plan for Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests (ALCN) in New South Wales. In addition, the document “Teaching local NSW Aboriginal Languages and Cultures: A Guide for Schools” was launched to facilitate culturally appropriate incorporation of Aboriginal learning in education environments. This project was headed by Dr Shayne T. Williams and aims to revitalise both Aboriginal languages and cultures at the community level to preserve sacred knowledge and ensure the continuation of identity and tradition to future generations. (Contribution written by Sarah Verdon)