Lan­guage needs sav­ing, Wy­att told

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

The State Govern­ment has been urged to step in to save in­dige­nous lan­guages, which tra­di­tional own­ers say are dis­ap­pear­ing from the State at an alarm­ing rate.

Lan­guage con­ser­va­tion was the big­gest is­sue raised at the 2017 Yule River bush meet­ing, where sev­eral com­mu­nity lead­ers spoke of their pain at see­ing lan­guage dis­ap­pear.

Most of the 31 Pil­bara Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guages are in vary­ing states of de­cline, with some al­ready ex­tinct or on the brink of ex­tinc­tion. IBN Group chair­woman Lor­raine In­jie said while trans­la­tion ser­vices were read­ily avail­able for for­eign lan­guages in Aus­tralia, in­dige­nous trans­la­tors were hard to come by.

“Our lan­guages and our cul­tures should be Aus­tralia’s great­est trea­sures but they aren’t, and they haven’t been treated as if they were,” she said. “There must be no other place on the planet that has ex­pe­ri­enced the loss of lan­guage and cul­ture that we have.”

Other at­ten­dees at the meet­ing re­vealed frus­tra­tion with the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, where their chil­dren could learn for­eign lan­guages but not their own.

Abo­rig­i­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ben Wy­att said preservation of lan­guage would be a big pol­icy chal­lenge for the State Govern­ment.

“We have lots of kids speak­ing lan­guage at home but then com­ing to school and not get­ting any ex­po­sure to their first lan­guage — that is where we need to put more ef­fort in,” he said. “Clearly, across a large cross-sec­tion of peo­ple, there is a de­ter­mi­na­tion to have lan­guage as a part of the ed­u­ca­tion process and el­e­vate the im­por­tant of lan­guage.

“This is ac­tu­ally quite a chal­lenge for the State in find­ing how we can re­spond in a way that can pro­tect and pro­mote the many Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guages in WA.”

Mr Wy­att said cre­at­ing flex­i­bil­ity for el­ders flu­ent in their na­tive tongue but with­out ed­u­ca­tion qual­i­fi­ca­tions to come into class­rooms could be one area to in­ves­ti­gate. Ya­matji Marlpa Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Simon Hawkins said Abo­rig­i­nal cor­po­ra­tions wanted to look at a co-fund­ing model with the State Govern­ment to im­prove lan­guage ed­u­ca­tion.

“Peo­ple want to see lan­guage pre­served, and they want to see fund­ing and sup­port for it,” he said.

“As more el­ders pass away, more lan­guages die.

Mr Hawkins said he would like to see Abo­rig­i­nal lan­guages be­come part of the cur­ricu­lum in pri­mary schools.

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