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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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New resources for Indigenous language education in South Australia

Greg Wilson and Guy Tunstill
Department of Education and Children's Services

Indigenous languages in South Australia are being supported by the Department of Education and Children's Services and local Aboriginal communities, through new curriculum resources.

More than 50 Indigenous languages are estimated to have existed in South Australia prior to European settlement. Many are no longer spoken: Aboriginal people describe such languages as lying dormant. Other languages, like Arabana of the Eyre Basin and Adnyamathanha of the Flinders Ranges, have survived, with vastly reduced numbers of speakers.

However, both these languages, and some of the dormant ones, are now being revived. South Australia's Department of Education and Children's Services, in collaboration with Aboriginal communities, has recently published three print curriculum resources with direct application to the learning of Australian Indigenous languages from Reception to Year 10.

Two of the resources are specific to Arabana and Adnyamathanha respectively. Both are presented through approximately twenty activities/task-based Modules, which offer suggested target-language utterances accompanied by explanatory teaching notes.

The publications are developed out of the SA Curriculum Standards and Accountability Framework for Australian Indigenous Languages (SACSA AIL), a component of the broader SACSA Framework. The AIL was launched in August 2003 to enable teachers to plan and program the teaching of Aboriginal languages. It is a language-generic document and offers a structure for the teaching of all Aboriginal languages in schools programs. Teaching these languages in a second-language learning pathway is related to the non-traditional contexts of contemporary schooling.

Both the resources embrace the communication, understanding language and understanding culture strands of the SACSA. The resources acknowledge issues central to the agenda for Indigenous languages, such as language ownership, rights and responsibilities, and protection of the intellectual and cultural property of contributing individuals and communities. They are also designed to engage language custodians in the development and evaluation of teaching resources, and in teaching and learning programs.

The DECS has produced a further resource in collaboration with the Adelaide University's Linguistics discipline: Ecological issues in language revival. Its ecological perspective promotes a holistic approach to the revival of Indigenous languages in schools. Communities are central, negotiated content is critical, supportive whole-school attitudes to the programs are essential; motivational factors are defined and discussed. It blends the theory with practice, covering such topics as: What is language revival? Why revive languages? And 'Language ecology'.

All teachers of Languages will benefit from the practical account of how to establish a language revival program in their individual settings, and from the extensive annotated bibliography of motivational readings. The text emphasises that language and culture cannot be separated. Supporting the revival of Indigenous languages in educational settings requires quality programs which function with meaningful links to local Indigenous communities.

The resources are:

  • Department of Education and Children's Services, 2004, Arabana, Years R-10, DECS, Adelaide
  • Department of Education and Children's Services, 2004, Adnyamathanha, Years R-10, DECS, Adelaide
  • Department of Education and Children's Services, 2004, Ecological issues in language revival, DECS, Adelaide

For copies of the books or other information contact

  • Greg Wilson Wilson.Gregory@saugov.sa.gov.au or
  • Guy Tunstill Tunstill.Guy@saugov.sa.gov.au

This article is taken in part from 'Support documents for Australian Indigenous Languages', appearing in Xtra 11 March 2004.


Subject Headings

Aboriginal peoples
Aboriginal students
Curriculum planning
Language and languages
South Australia