Breaking the Ban on Bilingual Education - Forum

NT School Children

Bans on teaching in Aboriginal language for the first four hours of the school day were introduced in 2008 following the roll out of the Northern Territory Intervention in 2007. Under the guise of “closing the gap” on Aboriginal disadvantage the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended, Aboriginal community land has been seized and community organisations, jobs and access to welfare payments have been dismantled.

The attempt to decimate bilingual programs was a territory government decision, but mimics perfectly the punitive logic of the federal intervention. Communities and Aboriginal culture are being attacked for the problems caused by all governments' chronic failure to support self determination for Aboriginal people.

The attempt to decimate bilingual programs was a territory government decision, but mimics perfectly the punitive logic of the federal intervention. Communities and Aboriginal culture are being attacked for the problems caused by all governments' chronic failure to support self determination for Aboriginal people.

The Melbourne Anti Intervention Collective presents a public forum about the reasons why teachers and communities are breaking the ban on bilingual education. The forum will be held on Thursday 18th of November at the James Hardie Theatre, Architecture Building, University of Melbourne.

• Senior teacher from Bilingual school (to remain anonymous until video link up)
• Rosa McKenna, Friends of Bilingual Learning
• Mary Merkenich, Teacher and Unionist
• Lucy Honan, Melbourne Anti Intervention Collective.

The NT Intervention: Why Teachers and Communities are Breaking the Ban on Bilingual Education
Thursday 18th of November, 6:30pm
James Hardie Theatre, Architecture Building, University of Melbourne

Come along to hear of Aboriginal communities resisting the ban and what we can do.
Info Contact Shannon Price 0422 802 984

pdf  Forum Poster - Colour  |  Forum Poster - BW

Bi-Lingual Education Poster


Dodson gives intervention F on education

Julian Drape AAP | Bisbane Times November 5, 2010

Aboriginal academic and leader Mick Dodson says the commonwealth intervention into remote Northern Territory communities has resulted in indigenous students dropping out of school.

Prof Dodson said on Friday it was time for both the federal and NT governments to "rethink the whole thing" following "appalling failure" on the education front.

The former Australian of the Year made the comments at Canberra University after being awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to human rights and social justice.

"What concerns me about the Northern Territory intervention from an education perspective is the massive fall-off in attendances at schools - in particular in the 76 targeted communities," Prof Dodson told reporters.

"Kids aren't turning up to school.

"Some say it's because of the scrapping of bilingual education.

"If that's the case it ought to be reinstated immediately."

The territory government limited bilingual education in 2008 by forcing remote Aboriginal schools to teach classes in English for the first four hours of the school day.

"I think that's an appalling failure on the part of both the Northern Territory government and the federal government," Prof Dodson said.

"It's intervention has had consequences that will have repercussion for generations.

"They should rethink the whole thing in respect of education."

Prof Dodson said he supported the objective of indigenous children reaching national literacy and numeracy standards.

He said: "There should be no soft standards for us."

However, that didn't mean local languages should be sacrificed.

"In this country competency in English is essential," the Australian National University law professor said.

"But that doesn't mean we deny, ignore, destroy Aboriginal language and Aboriginal language teaching."

Prof Dodson said the educational experience for many indigenous students was negative.

Too many teachers still had low expectations, he said.

"That attitude has to go. We've got to say we expect you to be successful.

"And they (students) should rightfully have an expectation `Well we expect you to help us be successful'."

The NT intervention was launched by the federal coalition before the 2007 election and continued by the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Remote Northern Territory schools bleed pupils

Mark Schliebs The Australian 3rd November, 2010

School attendance rates are plummeting in several remote Northern Territory communities.

Both Territory and federal governments are struggling to find ways to keep indigenous children in class.

At one school, attendance rates have nearly halved in two years to a low of 37.2 per cent. The NT government believes the minimum attendance rate in remote regions should be at least 80 per cent, which equates to the average child attending school four days a week.

More than 60 schools across the Territory recorded attendance rates below 80 per cent in June, according to government figures, with an estimated 2000 children not even enrolled. Five schools had attendance rates below 50 per cent.

The low attendance rates, which follows the cutting back on bilingual teaching, came as the federal government continued a trial in six remote communities that suspends welfare payments to parents if their children don't attend school.

Just eight Territory families had payments suspended since the trial began in January last year. Two of those were due to children not being enrolled in school. A further 77 cases are being examined by Centrelink and individual schools. The NT Department of Education believes the trial may have contributed to a "slight increase" in attendance at some schools.

A spokeswoman for federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said the trial would continue until the middle of next year.

"School attendance must improve in remote Northern Territory communities if children are to get the best chance in life," the spokeswoman said. "The government is currently rolling out a new non-discriminatory income management scheme in the Northern Territory. These reforms strongly link income support to school attendance, and participation in study and work."

Territory Education Minister Chris Burns said under a new government program, parents who don't send their children to school will face fines of up to $200.

"Families need to take responsibility for children attending school," Dr Burns said. "We need the support of the broader community so more indigenous students go to school every day and get a good education."

At the Lajamanu School, about 550km southwest of Katherine, attendance rates have fallen from 60.6 per cent in 2008 to just 37 per cent this year. Enrolments also fell from 216 to 157. Until 2008, the school provided bilingual classes to cater to indigenous students who knew little English. Now, students must spend four hours each day being taught in English.

The school's principal declined to comment on the fall in attendance and enrolments.

ANU language researcher Greg Dixon, who recently carried out a study on the teaching of Walpiri languages in the NT, said the switch to English has contributed to falling enrolments at the school.

"It wouldn't be the only factor, but I think it is a big factor," Mr Dixon said.

Naomi Bonson, the NT director of school enrolments and attendance, said part of the fall could be attributed to the focus on English.

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