A Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has pledged to take direct responsibility for Indigenous Policy…

TONY ABBOTT: Under an incoming Coalition government, Indigenous affairs will be handled within the department of prime minister and cabinet. There will be, in effect, a prime minister for Aboriginal affairs.

in a speech given to the Sydney Institute on April 15th.

While there was not much detail it certainly sounds impressive. A Prime Minister forcing improvements in Indigenous lives, closing the gap. But what sort of people would in effect be running the portfolio?

On April 18th at a Qantas function his Director of Policy Dr Mark Roberts made a throat-slitting motion and threatened to “cut the throat” of funding to Andrew Penfold the CEO of the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation.

Not only that, but when he realised there was a witness, Peter van Onselon, Mr Roberts apparently offered to become a deep throat from within Abbott’s office if van Onselon kept his mouth shut.

The possible Prime Minister for Aboriginal Affairs only action was to not sack but only demote his Director of Policy.

Makes me wonder how Indigenous Affairs will progress under Abbott.

Why you should follow @IndigenousX – an Indigenous Curated Twitter Account.

Luke Pearson set up the IndigenousX account up on Twitter and has a different Indigenous Australian tweet from it each week.

Aim1

He has a big plans for IndigenousX and yesterday (Saturday) on Twitter he said if he could get to 10,000 followers by Thursday (just over 6000 at the time) he’d donate a $100 to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (@ILF).

@urthboy said he would triple that and the promotion of the IndigenousX account and offers of donations (currently about $5685 with some already donated) to ILF started flowing in.

IndigenousX received several hundred new followers in a few hours and on New Year’s Day evening has over 7700 followers

Now I am not saying to follow IndigenousX because he’s trying to increase his followers. Look at the aims Luke has for the account:

1. The main goal is to have a safe space for Indigenous tweeps to share their stories. Their hopes, dreams, goals, & also their frustrations.

2. To network & make new friendships & connections between like-minded tweeps from any & all backgrounds.

Aim2

3.To allow non-Indigenous tweeps to hear from Indigenous voices.

Aim3

If you want to learn from our Indigenous Australians, to see aspirations and worries they have as a people and as individuals I urge you to follow IndigenousX.

Preferably by Thursday.

And if you want to donate to a charity you can’t do better than by assisting kids out bush to read. Donate to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Luke has assisted me in the past with obtaining a large box of books which sit on my bookshelf for visiting kids and families to read (although most have made their way to homes).

Luke has written about the follower drive and fundraising.

reposted from Sunday

@IndigenousX – an Indigenous Curated Twitter Account

Luke Pearson set up the IndigenousX account up on Twitter and has a different Indigenous Australian tweet from it each week.

Aim1

He has a big plans for IndigenousX and yesterday (Saturday) on Twitter he said if he could get to 10,000 followers by Thursday (just over 6000 at the time) he’d donate a $100 to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (@ILF).

@urthboy said he would triple that and the promotion of the IndigenousX account and offers of donations (currently about $3600 with some already donated) to ILF started.

IndigenousX received several hundred new followers in a few hours.

Now I am not saying to follow IndigenousX because he’s trying to increase his followers. Look at the aims Luke has for the account:

1. The main goal is to have a safe space for Indigenous tweeps to share their stories. Their hopes, dreams, goals, & also their frustrations.

2. To network & make new friendships & connections between like-minded tweeps from any & all backgrounds.

Aim2

3.To allow non-Indigenous tweeps to hear from Indigenous voices.

Aim3

If you want to learn from our Indigenous Australians, to see aspirations and worries they have as a people and as individuals I urge you to follow IndigenousX.

Preferably by Thursday.

And if you want to donate to a charity you can’t do better than by assisting kids out bush to read. Donate to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

Luke has assisted me in the past with obtaining a large box of books which sit on my bookshelf for kids to read (although most have made their way to homes).

apologies – though links look broken they do work. Hoping to have it fixed soon

The chance of a lifetime to save Indigenous languages

By Claire Bowern, Yale University

It is not often that the opportunity comes along to make a real difference, but a new report into Indigenous languages in Australia has the potential to do just that.

Our Land, Our Languages has already been likened to the momentous Mabo decision. But where Mabo helped change our legal and cultural understanding of Indigenous land rights, this report highlights the fiction of a monolingual Australia and calls for recognition of Australia’s Indigenous linguistic diversity.

We have seen many reports on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their lives: “Bringing Them Home”, reports on Aboriginal deaths in custody, education reports, and the Ampe Akelyernemane (“Little Children are Sacred”) report, which sparked the Northern Territory Intervention.

This report is different. Rather than treating Aboriginal people as a problem to be solved, or adding yet another layer of bureaucracy onto already micro-managed lives, this report is about finding solutions within communities. Many previous reports have exposed a shameful history of abuse and neglect. This time, we see case after case of people doing the best they can under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

The findings should not be another opportunity for white Australia to spend a week of soul searching and brow beating before forgetting yet again about our vow that this time we’ll be different. It’s a chance to see what local communities have been doing and to support those efforts.


What are the recommendations?

The report’s 30 recommendations range from raising the profile of Indigenous languages in the Australian community through increased signage to making it easier for Aboriginal people to get qualifications to teach their own languages. Other recommendations include provisions for sharing language resources between schools, documenting languages under threat, supporting bilingual education early childhood initiatives, and providing archival resources.

Many of the recommendations are straightforward to implement. They are concrete and do not rely on the creation of extensive new infrastructure. Unlike the Northern Territory intervention, there’ll be no need to send in the army this time.

Rather, many of the recommendations focus on capitalising on existing infrastructure and making existing programs more effective. For example, the library of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is already the country’s de facto national archive for Indigenous materials, but is acutely understaffed and underfunded.


A complex solution

The solutions are not a one-size fits all response either. The Australian linguistic scene is very complex, with languages needing different degrees of support. There is no point in advocating bilingual education or interpreters for communities where the Indigenous languages are not the primary modes of communication. But such language support is desperately needed across the Kriol – and Language – speaking parts of Northern Australia.

In contrast, language reclamation has an important role to play in the areas where the languages have already gone.

Will this “save” languages? It’s hard to say. What we do know, however, is that good language and education programs have knock-on effects far beyond the school. It isn’t rocket science to see that kids who are taught in a language they speak are going to do better than kids who are aren’t.

We have long known that bilingual and culturally relevant education boosts attendance across the board, and that spotty attendance is one of the biggest causes of poor test scores. We have long known about the benefits of speaking more than one language. Those benefits apply, no matter what the race or the language.


Passing the test

These recommendations are not shots in the dark; they are not guesses at a solution. They are the outcomes of a year of interviews and sifting of research which shows what communities have done to help their languages survive. The committee has documented what can be achieved on a shoe-string and in the face of national apathy and often unhelpful or hostile policies.

Let’s make the question no longer one of survival: this is a chance for the languages and their speakers to flourish.

We’ve had more than five years of the Intervention in the Northern Territory, and while many things have changed, it’s not at all clear that much has changed for the better. Now is an excellent time to enact recommendations based on respect, rather than on bullying.

More than 200 years of aggression, assimilation and annihilation has failed, and thankfully so. But it’s done a lot of damage. Australia is a world leader in endangered languages. This is a great chance for us to be world leaders in language reclamation and support instead.

Paul Keating, in his 1992 Redfern Speech, called the treatment of Australia’s Indigenous people “the test which so far we have always failed.”

Twenty years later, we are still failing. But now is an incredible opportunity to do better. Let’s not waste it.

Claire Bowern receives research funding from the National Science Foundation (USA) for work on Australian Indigenous languages. Her submission to the Inquiry can be found here: (http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House_of_Representatives_Committees?url=atsia/languages/submissions.htm; submission 83)

The Conversation

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