The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) has commissioned three AIATSIS staff — Drs Marmion, Troy and Walsh — to write the framework for Australian languages which will provide guidance for the teaching, potentially, of any of Australia’s 250 First languages in any Australian school. To accommodate a wide range of language ecologies remains a major challenge: around 20 languages are still spoken ‘right through’ while some are no longer in daily use.
The framework is likely to have a profound effect into the future on the teaching of Australian Languages across the continent. Preliminary research indicates that the retention or revitalisation of ancestral languages can improve the overall health of Indigenous communities: mental, physical and social. But there is also an important effect on the wider community, particularly in reducing racism, as many non-Indigenous students get exposure to Australian Languages.
AIATSIS has partnered with ACARA in the writing phase of the framework. We anticipate continued partnering with ACARA in the implementation phase for which there will be a strong demand for resource materials to support the teaching of the languages. AIATSIS is ideally positioned to participate in this enterprise. Our staff include the framework’s writing team and the AIATSIS Collections team.
Drs Troy and Walsh have reported on the progress of the framework for Australian languages at a number of conferences in 2013. From May to July in 2013 ACARA undertook some twenty face-to-face consultations about the framework at key centres right around Australia, one of them being hosted by AIATSIS. The majority of those attending these consultations were Indigenous people and the responses were very positive as the writing team saw first-hand by attending a number of the consultations. There is a keen sense of anticipation in Indigenous communities and among other key stakeholders that the framework will lift the teaching of Australian languages to a new level.