Indigenous Languages Programmes

Indigenous languages programmes in schoolsThe national project which is the subject of this report is directed towards strengthening the quality of Indigenous languages programmes in schools. The purpose of the project is to provide a snapshot of the current national situation in Indigenous languages education in Australian schools.

The target groups to benefit from the Project are:

  • teachers and speakers of Indigenous languages who are delivering programmes in Australian schools and those wishing to deliver such programmes;
  • Indigenous and school communities wishing to introduce, improve or expand the delivery of Indigenous languages programmes in their schools; and
  • policy makers and programme officers from State and Territory education jurisdictions wishing to introduce, improve or expand the delivery of Indigenous languages programmes in their schools.

The (former) Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) contracted the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to undertake the project. It is one of several national projects funded through the Australian Government’s School Languages Programme (SLP). These national projects support the implementation of the National Statement and Plan for Languages Education in Australian Schools 2005-08, developed through the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). The National Statement and Plan was endorsed by all Ministers of Education in March 2005.

The National Statement and Plan affirms the value of all languages, including Australia’s Indigenous languages. The Indigenous languages project is the first phase of support for Indigenous languages programmes delivered in Australian schools. The outcomes will inform further action undertaken at a national level.

The project should also be seen in light of several other national policies and current developments.

First, the project supports implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP), which was instigated in 1990 and which continues to form the foundation of all Indigenous education programmes. One of the national goals enunciated in the AEP is “to develop programs to support the maintenance and continued use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages.”

Second, the Indigenous Education (Targeted Assistance) Act 2000 (Amended 2005), which provides the legislative basis and appropriate funding for Indigenous viii Executive Summary education programmes, notes that “developing programs to support the maintenance and continued use of the languages of Indigenous people” (p.5) is one of a number of strategies aimed at achieving equitable and appropriate educational outcomes for Indigenous people.

Third, current discussions regarding the development of a National Curriculum provide a timely forum for considering the place of Indigenous languages in school curricula.

Finally, this project is particularly pertinent given the intention of the Australian Government to become a signatory of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) which reaffirms the right of Indigenous peoples to have access to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

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