Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australian Aboriginal cultures under attack by Northern Territory government

It saddens me to know that there is still very little being done in Australia to protect indigenous languages. I consider it to be a culturally dominant and patronising position that English be pushed as the first language in education. It should be pointed out that Australia does not have an official language at all and that legally all people are free to receive education in any language.
The Northern Territory are most guilty in their dismantling of bi-lingual programs in schools.
Evidence for this is cited here:
Australian Indigenous language funding

I have been prompted again to think of this issue after seeing this interview with a lady from the Iwaidja people in Arnhem Land of Northern Territory. A little funding from the federal government does not cover up the fact that Australian Indigenous cultures are still being systematically wiped out. It seems we have actually not learnt a thing in Australia. The apology to the stolen generations now seems rather hollow.

View the video here:

Iwaidja Ngabi Inyman from Bruce Birch on Vimeo.

Here is the letter that I have sent to Peter Garrett's office requesting an official conversation on the matter.

I will write more on this matter as the issues unfold.

To the office of Peter Garrett, M.P

I am an Australian citizen currently living and working in Russia. I am a linguist with a B.A from Monash University (2000). My other qualifications are a Graduate Diploma of Language Description and Development (2009) and an Associate Diploma of Intercultural Studies (1998). I currently work as a linguist in the field of language revitalisation and maintenance among endangered languages of Siberian indigenous peoples in Russia.

I have some real and deep concerns for the state of endangered languages in Australia. My concerns are multi faceted and are connected with language, identity, cultural and mental well being, at both individual and community levels. Among my many concerns the one that falls directly in Peter Garrett's sphere of influence is the education of children in their indigenous languages. This issue is connected to English taking a precedence over indigenous languages.

I, along with many Australians was filled with tears, joy, hope and a very small measure of pride when an official apology was made by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on behalf of the Australian Parliament to the members of the stolen generations, in February of 2008. My colleagues here in Siberia also took some hope that a national government would take the time to pay attention to indigenous issues. Many Aboriginal peoples were very appreciative of the apology and warmly welcomed it. At the same time many Aboriginal peoples reminded European Australians that their languages do not have tangible words for "sorry" (they are oral, tangible based i.e non abstract languages), and that our actions would show them sorry more than words.

I am concerned that the true spirit of sorry has not been grasped by the Australian Parliament (all parties), nor the Australian public. Our continual neglect of indigenous languages and insistence that English take a priority ahead of them is essentially the same mistake that was made with the stolen generations- that Aboriginal peoples be made to fit in and assimilate with the broader Australian population.

I have been aware of this issue for a long time, but a recent video brought it to my attention again. Please take the time to view it.   It is an interview with a woman named Joy Williams Malwagag from the Iwaidja people of Arnhem Land.

I would like to formally request a telephone conversation with Peter Garrett to discuss these issues. I do not anticipate being in Australia until 2013.

I am a concerned citizen who hopes my concerns are taken seriously. I once wrote to the former Primer Minister John Howard on issues relating to refugees. My letter never received a response from his office let alone the PM himself. I am hoping that your office takes the opportunity to excel the former Prime Minister in his lack of concern and a responsible attitude. 

Yours in a spirit of genuine reconciliation for all Aboriginal peoples,


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