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Director weekly highlights 9 July

Jane Simpson, Outreach

Date: 9 July 2021

Greetings from cold, cold Canberra, Ngunnawal country. First, the sad news about the death of our colleague Robert Mannell, who will be remembered among much else for his and Felicity Cox’s generosity in giving us the Speech Resource Pages

Many people to congratulate, as you'll see in the News section. Highlighting just one thing (because aphasia is such a terrifying disorder): the new NHMRC MRFF – Cardiovascular Mission grant for investigating how people can stick to self-managed aphasia treatment. Congratulations to CoEDL affiliate Sarah Wallace and her big team including CIs Tony Angwin and Janet Wiles!  

This week was the Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations biennial conference. We celebrated the Patji-Dawes award winners, and you can watch the very moving speeches by the nominators and the three winners, Maria Lo Presti, Sharon Gregory and Stan Grant Senior on behalf of the Wiradjuri program at Charles Sturt University. As part of the ceremony, Jean Fornaserio (LCNAU) and Nathan Harvey (AFMLTA) formally took over the Patji-Dawes award. It is a great delight that this CoEDL initiative has taken off and will be looked after by the language teaching bodies. Our heartfelt gratitude to them. 

Some excellent and informative keynote presentations addressed policy (CoEDL Advisory Committee member, Anne-Marie Morgan's fascinating overview of language teaching policies in the different jurisdictions of the UK and other countries), implementation (Sam Osborne showed what has been happening in teaching Pitjantjatjara both on the APY Lands and at the University of South Australia), support for teachers, resource-sharing (where do you find resources for teaching small languages like Chaldean?) and pathways to qualifications for marginalised groups.  

Janice Aubry showed us what Canada has been doing in the way of language teacher support and resource-sharing for teachers in remote communities and teachers feeling very isolated. CoEDL has been strong in this space for Indigenous students, and — before COVID — in the Pacific. Some approaches emerged in Ken Cruickshank's fabulous Keith Horwood Memorial Lecture 'Aligning Community Languages' about the work of the Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education (SICLE). It was very depressing to learn that, while in the 1980s and 1990s there was a boom in teaching community languages in low SES schools, the numbers have dramatically dropped in NSW since a change in the rules for weighting languages for university entry. A small fightback: the Modern Languages Teachers Association of NSW have introduced an Arabic learning prize, open to all students of Arabic in NSW, from Kindergarten to Year 10. But more and more it seems that only children from well-off families have good access to language learning at school. 

SICLE also provides resources for language teachers feeling isolated through an open languages portal, which provides material in many languages, including lesser taught languages such as Assyrian and Dari. AND you can upload material there. It's a bit reminiscent of the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages (and the trick with all of these is archival longevity). 

But perhaps most relevant to CoEDL's work with Indigenous languages is that SICLE provides pathways for community language teachers — most community language teachers are volunteers, and they are often migrant women who would like to get qualifications. So, the Sydney Institute offers professional development courses in community language teaching, which both help the community language schools and can set the volunteers on the pathway to gaining teacher accreditation. 

Thinking of lesser taught languages — if you want a taste of Tok Pisin, CoEDL alumna Darja Hoenigman is running an online Tok Pisin microredential course in September.  

The other big event this week has been NAIDOC Week. I imagine everyone has been experiencing NAIDOC and thinking about its theme 'Heal country', and the many ideas this leads to. In these COVID times, vaccination is a key concern. It was great to read that in Maningrida 1300 people have received their first Pfizer vaccinations, led by a senior man, Charlie Gunabarra. Likewise, in Tennant Creek a senior Warumungu man Michael Jampin Jones has led the way. Still more to be done. The Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory wants some messages translated into First Languages: 

Vaccinate! To protect our elders! 

Vaccinate! To protect our kids! 

Vaccinate! To protect our community! 

And in Kriol Gedim nidul! Bla kipum wi olpipul seif 

Send your suggestions to Chips Mackinolty if you can help.

The media have done a great job in celebrating NAIDOC, from Marcia Langton's Henry Mayer Lecture, to celebrating a Deaf Aboriginal sign for Australia (and you can see Joanna Agius OAM, a Narungga deaf advocate, signing an acknowledgment of country in Auslan). It's timely, then, that a group of CoEDLers (led by Ruth Singer, Jaky Troy and Lesley Woods) have established a virtual reading group around ‘framing a new ethical model for linguistic research based on a human rights agenda’.  

Keep warm, keep safe, and our sympathy to Sydney colleagues enduring lockdown.  

Jane Simpson 
Acting Director

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University