Revitalizing Original Aboriginal Languages

UA News Services
June 20, 2004

The American Indian Language Development Institute will host experts who will lead a discussion on the challenges of revitalizing original Aboriginal languages on Tuesday, June 15, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., in the College of Education Kiva Auditorium

Kevin Lowe, with the Aboriginal Curriculum Unit at the New South Wales Board of Studies, and Michael Walsh, linguistics instructor at the University of Sydney will present "Revitalization Down Under: Aboriginal Languages in New South Wales, Australia."

The state of New South Wales (NSW) was first settled in 1788 and has sustained considerable outside contact from visitors. By contrast some parts of northern Australia have had little contact with outsiders until the 20th century. Not surprisingly some of the languages in these areas are still being passed on to children as part of everyday life.

The original linguistic heritage of NSW, which is around 70 languages, has not fared so well. One academic commentator claimed that all its languages (with the exception of a few aged speakers for just one language) were extinct. In fact most indigenous people disagree with this claim, and there are numerous projects under way to reclaim ancestral languages. Nevertheless some languages of NSW face considerable challenges if they are to be effectively revitalized. This raises the question of what it means to say that a language has been effectively revitalized. Among the issues that will be considered are:

  • developing a NSW state government Aboriginal languages policy using electronic means to reach scattered indigenous language communities
  • protecting and respecting indigenous language heritages
  • considering the role of educational institutions
  • planning training that is targeted at indigenous communities

About the Speakers
Kevin Lowe has extensive teaching experience in schools, university and technical education sectors. He is a Gubbi Gubbi man (southeast Queensland language nation) who is currently the inspector for Aboriginal education for the New South Wales Board of Studies. The board is responsible for developing curriculum for children commencing school in kindergarten through 12th grade. He is also currently the deputy chairman of the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (FATSIL), the national peak advisory and advocacy body for indigenous language programs across Australia and an executive of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), the New South Wales peak community body on Aboriginal education.

Michael Walsh currently teaches linguistics at the University of Sydney, Australia. He also has taught Aboriginal studies there and has been carrying out fieldwork in this area since 1972, mostly in the Northern Territory but more recently in the state of New South Wales. His interests are not confined to "straight linguistics" but range over assistance in Aboriginal land claim cases; language and music; language revitalization and the language-education interface.

For more information contact the American Indian Language Development Institute at 621-1068.


Resources for the media

American Indian Language Development Institute
Language, Reading & Culture College of Education