File '16 Wangka Maya response', in ASEDA item 0380.

/** aust.languages: 16.0 **/
** Topic: White Paper response - PALC **
** Written  2:28 pm  Oct 25, 1991 by aiatsis in peg:aust.languages **

*Response to
*Australia's Language: The Australian Language and Literacy Policy
*(This response specifically addresses the special needs of
Aboriginal *and Torres Strait Islander languages)

by Wangka Maya  Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre (Aboriginal

Phone: (091) 732621,   Fax: (091) 732673 3 Edgar St. Port Hedland,
P.O. Box 693, Port Hedland, Western Australia 6721,  e-mail:

1.  Introduction:  The Management Committee and staff of Wangka
Maya, Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre support the philosophical
basis pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
languages which is outlined in Goal Three of the Australian
Languages and Literacy Policy (ALLP).  In particular, we support
the adoption of a National Aboriginal Language and Literacy
Strategy (NALLS) to target the specific language and literacy
needs of Aboriginal people.  We are pleased to note that the ALLP
recognizes the long-standing neglect of Australia's indigenous
languages (pp. 89-96) and plans to redress this neglect through
increased funding, support for regional Aboriginal language
centres, and the identification of Aboriginal languages as
priority languages for the teaching of Languages Other Than
English (LOTEs).  We are encouraged to see that the policy
reflects the submissions written by people involved in the
maintenance of Australia's indigenous languages, and the input of
representatives from language centres and language projects who
attended the "Living with Languages" workshop in Canberra in April

2.  The Structure of Regional Aboriginal Language Centres:  We
support the undertaking to establish an Aboriginal Languages
Initiatives Program (ALIP) to implement the NALLS, and, in
particular, the commitment under the ALIP initiative to fund
recurrently regional Aboriginal language centres (pp. 94-96).   We
consider it essential, however, that further discussion takes
place with the staff and management committee members of existing
language centres in order to determine the most viable structure
for the proposed network of regional Aboriginal language centres.

Representatives from four Western Australian Language Centres and
Pundulmurra College met in Broome in August 1991 to discuss the
future of regional Aboriginal language centres, concerns about the
present structure of language centres, and the ways in which
language centres can best achieve their goal of Aboriginal
language maintenance.  The representatives present at the workshop
have extensive experience in all aspects of Aboriginal language
maintenance, including the recording and analysis of Aboriginal
languages, training of Aboriginal language workers and
establishing and supporting school language programs.

2.1.  Issues:  Several concerns about the present structure of
language centres were expressed.  First,  all those present at the
workshop were in agreement that Aboriginal language maintenance
can best be achieved at the community level.  Representatives
noted that, under the existing model of regional Aboriginal
language centres, linguists are based in a centralized office
within each region and travel to communities for short periods to
undertake fieldwork for specific projects.   Much of the
linguist's work, therefore, takes place in the regional office.
However, the linguist is frequently diverted from linguistic
research and materials production and instead becomes involved in
administrative tasks such as submission writing and bookkeeping,
and the training of staff.

Second, representatives expressed their concern that current
staffing levels, together with funding restrictions, limit the
ability of language centre staff to fully serve the regions which
they represent.  In the past, language centres have not been able
to meet all of the requests which have come from communities,
schools, and other organizations for language projects to be
undertaken.  We are also aware that not all Aboriginal communities
are familiar with the work of language centres.

Third, representatives recognized that some of the difficulties
which language centres experience in attracting well-qualified
staff stem from  lack of knowledge within the academic community
of the work which language centres undertake.  A further reason
for staffing difficulties can be ascribed to continual funding
crises and the lack of parity between the working conditions of
staff in language centres and comparable positions elsewhere (e.g.
public service, tertiary institutions, schools, etc.).

2.2.  Solutions:  Representatives agreed that, despite these
concerns, regional Aboriginal language centres have made great
progress towards the goal of maintaining Aboriginal languages.
The existing centres have the support and participation of many
Aboriginal people in their regions.  However, some changes in
structure are necessary in order to begin to reverse the process
of the loss of Australia's Aboriginal languages, and to encourage
their maintenance into the next century.  In order to address the
concerns which were raised at the workshop, several models of
regional Aboriginal language centres were discussed and various
solutions proposed.

First, in acknowledging that language maintenance work will be
most effective if it is based in Aboriginal communities rather
than being centralized in towns, representatives stated that it
must be clear that the main function of regional Aboriginal
language centres is to act as support centres for community-based
language projects.  In other words, language centres are largely
administrative centres, rather than places in which language work
occurs.  Linguists undertaking language projects must be based
primarily in communities.

Second, in order to free linguists from office tasks and to liaise
effectively with Aboriginal communities, tertiary institutions and
the wider Australian public, a new permanent position, that of
Project Officer, needs to be created.  The project officer's
primary task would be to liaise with Aboriginal communities to
assess Aboriginal language maintenance needs and plan
community-based language projects.  It is essential that the
project officer has a tertiary qualification in linguistics (or
equivalent relevant experience) in order to be able to assess
accurately the requirements of each project.  While the project
officer would not undertake field research, we expect that s/he
would be involved in on-going projects such as school language
programs and the tutoring of language workers in the Certificate
in Aboriginal Language Work course (C.A.L.W.).  The project
officer would also publicize the work of language centres, write
submissions for funding, maintain databases of linguistic
information, and assist in the training of office staff (e.g., the
administrator).    The project officer would work with the
regional language centre's management committee to prioritize
projects for each calendar year.

Third, under this model of language centres, linguists would not
be permanent staff members based in the regional office, but would
be hired on a contract basis to undertake community-based language
projects.  The details of each project would be set out in a
contract which is negotiated by the project officer between the
community, the Language Centre, and the linguist.  Language
workers and language specialists would be selected by their
community and hired for the duration of each project to be trained
and work alongside the linguist.  This would ensure that more
community members have the skills to continue to work towards
language maintenance in their community once the project has been
completed.  Projects would be overseen by the project officer
working with a community project management committee.  Because of
the number of languages covered in each region, we expect that
most projects would be short-term (between one and three months

2.3.  Staffing, Conditions of Employment, and Budgetary
Requirements:    Based on the model of regional Aboriginal
language centres described above, the minimum staffing levels for
each centre would be: project officer, administrator and language
worker.  It is essential that the budget allows for contract
linguists (minimally the equivalent of one full-time salary), and
for payment of community-based language workers and language

In order to address concerns regarding the lack of parity between
the working conditions of staff in language centres and comparable
positions elsewhere, representatives at the workshop considered
that an industrial award needs to be written to cover all language
centre employees.  We drew up recommendations for salary scales
and minimum working conditions.

The minimum annual budgetary requirements for each regional
language centre has been estimated at approximately $225,000.
This figure is based on annual operational costs of $35,000,
fieldwork expenses of $65,000 (payment of casual language workers
and language specialists, fuel, accomodation, and travel
allowance), and salaries totalling $125,000 per annum (full-time
wages for an administrator, project officer, language worker and

3.  Language Other Than English:  Wangka Maya supports the
identification of Aboriginal languages as priority languages for
the teaching of LOTEs.  The teaching of Aboriginal languages in
schools will assist in raising the status of these languages and
the self-esteem of speakers, and will thus contribute to the goal
of Aboriginal language maintenance.

The ALLP recognizes that bilingual education programs are
appropriate for Aboriginal children of non-English speaking
background (p.79) and are the most effective means of giving
status to a child's first language.  However, there is little
focus within the ALLP on means of implementing bilingual education
programs.  We consider that, if the ALLP is to contain references
to the value of bilingual education, it is essential that adequate
funding and facilities be provided for the training of the
specialist staff who will be needed to work in bilingual schools.
It is also important that schools and regions are identified in
which bilingual education could appropriately be introduced.

Language Centres will continue to support the implementation and
development of school language programs aimed at the teaching of
Australian Aboriginal languages.  This support can include
participation in the training of Aboriginal language workers,
involvement by language centre linguists as members of "language
teams", liaison with Aboriginal communities to identify language
specialists and encourage participation in the school program,
supplying linguistic resources (wordlists, picture dictionaries,
storybooks, etc.) to the school and assisting schools in the
production of new resources, and, where required, undertaking
linguistic research necessary for the successful implementation of
the language program.

We also strongly suggest that compulsory in-servicing of staff
with regard to Aboriginal languages and culture be introduced in
all schools with an Aboriginal student population, regardless of
whether or not the school plans to establish a language program.
This is essential in order that school staff can accurately assess
the language needs of their students.  We also suggest that the
position of language consultant be created and based in Regional
Education offices to deal with the on-going needs of schools with
regard to language.

DEET and the State Ministries of Education must demonstrate their
commitment to school language programs by providing the schools
with a realistic budget that allows for the training of language
workers, payment of Aboriginal language specialists, payment of
consultant linguists and the purchase of resources.  The quality
of resources produced for Aboriginal language and cultural
programs must be of a level comparable to resources produced for
other curricula areas.  This is essential if the status of
Aboriginal languages is to be raised for both Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal people.  Provision must also be made for A.E.W.'s
and teachers to be released from their classroom responsibilities
in order to take part in language training workshops and

4.  Language Worker Training Needs:  The ALLP notes that one of
the goals of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Education Policy (AEP) is to increase the number of Aboriginal
people engaged in the teaching of Aboriginal languages.  This goal
cannot be achieved without appropriate support for the training of
Aboriginal people as language workers.  Training in language work
is also a vital part of the process of Aboriginal language
maintenance.  At present, only one course exists in Western
Australia which addresses the linguistic training needs of
Aboriginal people; the Certificate in Aboriginal Language Work, an
on-site course based at Pundulmurra College.  While training of
language workers also takes place in language centres, at present
this occurs on a much more limited basis due to funding

We consider that the training needs of Aboriginal language workers
can best be served by basing training programs in regional
Aboriginal language centres.  The ALLP acknowledges that regional
Aboriginal language centres play an important role in the
maintenance of Australia's indigenous languages.  Aboriginal
language centres exist for the sole purpose of working towards the
maintenance of Aboriginal languages.  Therefore language worker
training programs would not have to compete with other programs
within an institution for resources and administrative support.
Regional Aboriginal language centres have skilled staff (linguists
and teacher-linguists) who could increase their participation in
the tutoring of language workers.  The centres also have the
infrastructure to support language worker training programs;
including administrative facilities, linguistic resources, and
well-established links with Aboriginal communities, the network of
Australian language centres and academic institutions.

5.  Allocation of resources:  We remain concerned about the means
by which the allocation of funding to regional language centres is
to be determined.  We consider it vital that decisions regarding
the prioritizing of language projects and the allocation of
resources occurs on a regional, rather than national, level.
However, we are disturbed about the possibility that the
administration of funding and decisions about the allocation of
resources may be made by ATSIC (p.91).  We fully support the goal
of "Aboriginal decision-making on issues affecting Aboriginal
languages" (p.90).  We also respect the ability of ATSIC
councillors to represent Aboriginal people, and to identify their
needs and allocate resources. However, the councillors'
responsibilities cover a very wide range of issues.  The
prioritizing of language maintenance needs is a complex process
which is best undertaken by people with  experience in language
maintenance issues who can assess the language needs of particular
communities and proposed language projects.

The ALLP states that the NALLS will include "the development of
effective arrangements to allow Aboriginal people to make
decisions about Aboriginal language and literacy issues" (p.94).
We suggest that serious consideration be given to the creation of
a new organization which draws upon the expertise of the staff and
elected management committees of language centres, together with
representatives from existing language-focussed organizations such
as the Aboriginal Languages Association and the Australian
Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
(AIATSIS).  Such an organization could, in consultation with DEET,
prioritize needs and allocate resources.

This document has been prepared on behalf of the staff and
management committee of Wangka Maya, Pilbara Aboriginal Language
Centre, and the staff of the Certificate in Aboriginal Language
Work, Pundulmurra College, and in consultation with linguists and
language workers involved in Aboriginal language maintenance in
Western Australia.

(Dr.) Margaret J. Florey (Linguist, P.A.L.C.)

1 Yamaji Language Centre, Geraldton; Mirima Dawang Woorlab-Gering,
Kununurra; Kimberley Language Resource Centre, Halls Creek and
Fitzroy Crossing; and Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language
Centre, Port Hedland.
2  Representing the Certificate in Aboriginal Language Work
3 In Western Australia, for example,  the Wangka Maya office in
Port Hedland serves the Pilbara region, while the Halls Creek
office of the Kimberley Language Resource Centre primarily serves
the east Kimberley, and the Fitzroy Crossing office serves the
west Kimberley.
4  A draft duty statement for the project officer's position is
5 A draft duty statement for the linguist's position is appended.
6 Draft duty statements for an office-based language worker and
administrator are appended.
7 These recommendations are appended.  Discussions concerning an
industrial award are being held with two unions in Perth.
8 "Language specialists" are fluent speakers of an Aboriginal
language, who may not be literate in either the Aboriginal
language or English.
9  For example, this may involve recording a language where
previous linguistic research is limited or non-existent.
10  During consultations with school staff around the Pilbara,
language centre staff were often told that A.E.W.'s have been
prevented from participating in language training workshops
because of the absence of arrangements for the replacement of
A.E.W.'s in classrooms on such occasions.
11   Training in Aboriginal language work involves learning skills
such as literacy in Aboriginal languages, materials preparation,
fieldwork skills, and knowledge of basic linguistic techniques for
the recording and analysis of languages.
12 After a conference of Aboriginal people decided that a language
worker training course was essential for the future of language
maintenance,  this course was established at  Pundulmurra College
after being approached by  representatives from Wangka Maya,
Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre.
13  Alternatively, an appropriate state-level department, such as
the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority in Western Australia,
could assist the new organization in the allocation and
administration of resources.

For the contents of the following appendices contact alcphang or



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