Australian Indigenous Languages Framework
The Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages (the Framework) is the first national curriculum document Foundation to Year 10 to provide a way forward for all schools in Australia to support the teaching and learning of the languages indigenous to this country. The Framework has been developed from the many individual responses to the experience of teaching Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages created by the education systems of each state and territory, and it draws particularly on the landmark Australian Indigenous Languages Framework (Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia, 1996).
The prime purpose of the Framework is to guide the development of teaching and learning curricula for particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. By providing a national framework it is intended that future educational development in Australia’s Indigenous languages will result in curriculum development and school programs that are nationally commensurate in terms of teaching, learning and assessing. Also, the provision of a framework in preference to language-specific curriculum documents will allow for greater flexibility in developing programs for any Aboriginal language or Torres Strait Islander language.
Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages are unique within the languages learning area in the Australian Curriculum. There are at least 250 distinct Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages, many having several dialects. Each language has an intimate connection with ‘Country’ or ‘Place’, which is how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people refer to areas of land, water, sea and sky to which they belong. Each Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person inherits language as part of his or her birthright, along with membership of a particular group and attachment to Country/Place. In this way, people become owners and custodians of areas of land, water, sea, and of language. A crucial part of a person’s identity, therefore, is sourced through language and Country or Place. All this has important implications for the framing of appropriate principles and protocols for the provision of school-based programs in Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages. It also emphasises the need for ongoing consultation with relevant language communities in developing school programs.
Since 1788, most of the traditional languages have ceased to be languages of everyday communication because many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were forced to stop speaking their languages as a result of government policies aimed at assimilating communities into the non-Indigenous population. However, communities across Australia are now working actively towards getting the languages back into everyday use, and schools can play a key role in helping communities achieve this aim. Where languages are used for everyday communication by whole communities across all generations, schools can provide opportunities to maintain and strengthen these languages.
Through helping to re-awaken Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages, students develop understanding of linguistic techniques and practices that apply to language revival and grow in their understanding of Australia’s history and their own capacity to effect positive social change.
It is well demonstrated that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are strongly motivated to study their own and other Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages, and that enthusiasm for their language studies often increases their engagement at school more generally.
This Framework potentially caters for all Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages, irrespective of the ecology of each language, whether it be a language of everyday communication used by a community, a language at any point in the continuum of revival or one of the many creole languages that have evolved through the history of language contact in Australia. At present there are two major creole languages: Kriol and Torres Strait Creole.
To cater for differences between the ecologies of the languages and the communities who are owners and custodians of the languages, and to cater for students who come from a variety of learner backgrounds, the Framework has three pathways:
First Language Learner Pathway (L1)
Second Language Learner Pathway (L2)
Language Revival Learner Pathway (LR).
The pathway approach recognises that the two key variables are ‘the learner’ and ‘the nature of the language’. The Framework is designed to be flexible. When developing language-specific curricula and programs, aspects of the content and achievement standards from across the pathways can be selected, adapted and modified in ways that best suit the particular language and its context and learners.