Aboriginal language rescue: 'cynical and false'

Environment minister Peter GarretEnvironment minister Peter Garrett announced on August 10 that $9 million will be spent on rescuing 100 Aboriginal languages. However, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre condemned the plan as "cynical and false".

"If this really was a new initiative, then we would be excited", said Nala Mansell-McKenna, state secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), on August 11. "But the truth is that this is just the usual annual funding round, releasing exactly the same amount of funds as last year.

"And, just like last year, the amount of funds allocated is less than half of the amount that Aborigines across Australia considered necessary to even begin to maintain our languages. Applications were received for $18 million."

TAC also criticised the focus of the funding, which concentrates on institutional support rather than living languages.

In the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal languages are commonly spoken in day-to-day life, a new bilingual education policy proposed in December restricts teaching in Aboriginal languages in schools to the last two hours of each day.

Mansell-McKenna said that this was at odds with moves to protect Aboriginal languages.

"Not only does refusing Aboriginal children access to bilingual education contravene the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Rights of the Child — both of which Australia is a signatory to — but it even breaches the Labor Party’s own policy.

"In its National Platform [the ALP] states their support for bilingual education for both Aborigines and white Australians."