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AuSIL Advocates for Indigenous Languages in Education in the Northern Territory
In September 2009, the Australian Society for Indigenous Languages (formerly the Summer Institute of Linguistics, a Bible translating organisation) spearheaded the submission of a letter to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory requesting him to change policies restricting the use of indigenous languages in education in the Northern Territory. The letter was signed by AuSIL as well as senior church leaders from the Territory, current and former teachers from remote bilingual schools, and education experts and linguists from various universities around Australia.
Copies of the letter to the Chief Minister were sent to key members of the Federal cabinet and shadow cabinet and all Territory MLAs. Included with the Letter, was a FAQ sheet and a copy of a recent AuSIL publication by Charles Grimes entitled “Indigenous Languages in Education: what the research actually shows.” This publication was compiled to counteract repeated claims that bilingual education is ineffective. (Copies available for $5). Other publications by SIL International were also sent, including "Why Language Matters" and "Multilingual Education".
On September 23 a joint press conference was held with a statement presented by Rev. Gregory Thompson, Anglican Bishop of the Northern Territory. The following week the Uniting Church Northern Synod sponsored a public forum at Charles Darwin University on the intervention and indigenous languages in education with Dr. Grimes included on the panel.
A follow up forum was scheduled for 27 October at Charles Darwin University with Dr Kimmo Kosonen, a Multilingual Education Consultant with SIL International, who frequently consults for agencies such as UNESCO, UNICEF and SEAMEO on language-in-education issues and advocacy for multilingual education. This forum is co-sponsored by AuSIL, CDU School of Education, the Association for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, and Friends of Bilingual Learning.
A press statement on "Education consultant shocked by Territory policies" was released on October 28 as follow up to two presentations:
- First language-based education for non-dominant language speakers: Issues and challenges by Kimmo Kosonen, SIL International & Payap University, Thailand
- Indigenous languages in education in the NT: the Chief Minister's “house of cards” by Prof. Charles E. Grimes, Australian Society for Indigenous Languages
On 28 October, Labor Senator Trish Crossin made a very informed speech on Indigenous Education in the Senate in Canberra.
ABC news provided good coverage on this topic in October, including an article (29 Oct) based on a telephone interview with Chuck Grimes.
Further links are available on AuSIL's site.