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Seminar: The Value of First Language Education, Emma Browne, 7 June

Date: 31 May 2019

Seminar: The Value of First Language Education

Speaker: Emma Browne

When: 7 June 2019, 11.30am-1pm

Where: BPB level 3 Seminar Room, BPB W3.03 (Level 3), Baldessin Building, ANU 


Warlpiri communities in Australia’s Northern Territory have long advocated for the inclusion of Warlpiri language, values and knowledges into classroom learning and Yuendumu School currently offers a bilingual with biliteracy program, co-delivered by English-speaking and Warlpiri educators  (Warlpiri Patu-kurlangu-jaru, 2011; Simpson, Caffery & McConvell, 2009). While the importance of first language education and value of affirming the language ecologies of the community in the classroom is well established (Carter, Angelo & Hudson, 2018; Garcia, 2015; Baker, 2011), little is known about language use for teaching and learning in remote bilingual classrooms, nor how this is mediated by (and mediates) language ideologies and wider sociolinguistic processes such as language contact and change.

In this Mid-term Review presentation, I will give an account of the past ten months of ethnographic fieldwork exploring the language practices of bilingual teachers and students in three classes at Yuendumu School in remote Central Australia. Data was collected from a combination of arts-informed methodologies, interviews, documentary evidence and audio-recordings of Warlpiri teaching and learning events in class and at specific traditional sites. I will share examples of how teachers and students draw on their communicative repertoires to construct and negotiate bilingual identities and accomplish the interactional goals of Warlpiri teaching and learning events (Rhymes, 2010; Mushin, 2010; Matras, 2009). I will also outline some pedagogical (e.g., Martin & Oldfield, 2000; Yunkaporta, 1999; Christie, 1985) and socialisation practices (Pawu-Kurlpurlurnu, Holmes & Box, 2008; Schieffelin & Ochs, 1986) facilitative of the production and reproduction of Warlpiri knowledge systems and language in school. Thus far, this project provides compelling evidence for the importance of Warlpiri-medium education and of Warlpiri educators, as uniquely positioned to cater for and extend Warlpiri students’ learning of language and subject matter in this remote school.


The seminar will be broadcast online from Alice Springs via Zoom. 

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