Thursday, December 11, 2008

Australia the monolingual wonderland!

This week is the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (10th December).

According to what I read this morning on a GetUp email, Australia is the only democratic country in the world without formal human rights protections!

This year also happens to be the:
United Nations International Year of Languages

Here in the Northern Territory we witness and engage in the subtle art of cultural annihilation and much of it is touted as being in the best interests of Indigenous People! Currently as far as I can see, for all the interest that is being directed at Indigenous communities, people only appear to be receiving more of the same! A constant barrage of upheaval and changes to their daily lives without due consultation, respect, or regard for their own aspirations and wishes.

I have only worked with Indigenous people in the Territory for less than one year but in that time I have seen people face many changes to the way they are expected to go about their daily business. I have heard stories about the arrival of the intervention team at Elcho Island. YolÅ‹u were astounded and shocked to see a fleet of Government 4x4’s roll out as the barge ramp was lowered. "It was just like an invasion" some said.

Communities have had their local councils amalgamated into Supershires that have no clear links to many of the communities they govern and Federal ‘Community Managers’ have been assigned to oversee the implementation of Intervention activities. The Federal Intervention has lead to cultural protocols being ignored, legitimate organizations dissolved, sacred sites desecrated and people generally disempowered!

Now comes another blow from the NT Education Minister Marion Scrymgour. The effectual abolishment of the Bilingual Education Program!

In some parts of Australia Aboriginal children are still able to speak the language of their ancestors! For those who are lucky enough, their language has been developed into a written language that can be used in class rooms as the means by which children learn to read and write! While they are introduced to the same concepts in English. Bilingual students have the potential to become literate in at least two languages!

The Top End of Australia is an international Hot Spot for language extinction. Indigenous languages have already disappeared from just about everywhere else in this country. As far as I can see this decision by the Minister for Education will only further disintegrate the Peoples Own Tongue! It seems outrageous that our Government would make a decision that will endanger such rare languages when it seems to be an accepted fact that children who are bilingual are more likely to become better students in the long run.

Many educators are questioning the logic behind the Minister for Education’s poorly conceived plan to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes in the Territory. Results in literacy and numeracy are low right across the Territory yet the minister has decided to remedy this by imposing a crippling demand on Bilingual Schools and the communities that depend on Bilingual Education.

If it weren't for suggestions that the program is being dismantled because of financial reasons I would almost have concluded that her policy was devised as an elaborate political pinata!
Imagine this... The Minister for Education has her political colleagues blindfold her, she is then armed with a big stick before her most trusted advisers proceed to spin her around several times until they let her go and yell start swinging until she smashes something!

A group has been formed to combat the assault on Bilingual Education. That group is called:

Friends of Bilingual Learning (fobl)

If you're interested in this issue please read up on the benefits of Bilingual education!
fobl has produced postcards that can be sent to both Marion Scrymgour and Julia Gillard

Save Bilingual Education postcardfobl postcard

Below is a link to a Radio National program called Awaye! which features an excelent story about the attack on the Bilingual Education programs and includes interviews with Marion Scrymgour.

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

You may not be aware but the movement for the global language, Esperanto, has been in the forefront in defending minority languages.

This was their contribution to the United Nations, Human Rights Convention, in Geneva earlier this year