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Monday, August 10, 2009

Halls Creek, Western Australia

Caroline's Pool was used by the early pioneers as it has water, even in the dry season

The China Wall is an unusual vertical quartz vein rising up to 6 metres from the earth and winds its way up over the hill and through the rugged landscape for fifteen kilometres.

Aboriginal people living in remote communities like Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek don't speak English.

Wendy Baarda, resident of Yuendumu, NT for 35 years and teacher for 30 years, says that forcing children to learn classroom English will be the death of Aboriginal languages. She says that trying to teach Aboriginal children lessons in a language they don't understand (English) is so frustrating for them, they don't want to come to school at all, and often don't. What's the point when they don't understand what the teacher is talking about. Likewise, the teacher hasn't a clue what her students are saying or thinking - she doesn't know why that fight broke out, or what they are laughing about. The children tell their parents they get headaches when they have to learn English.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin and Arts Minister Peter Garrett have announced they will pledge $9.3 million over the coming year to help take 113 indigenous languages off the critically endangered list. Communities will be encouraged to use their own languages as much as possible and all efforts will be made to pass them on.

Although I see that self-respect and dignity comes from having your language recognised and valued, I wonder if it won't set Aboriginal people even further apart from mainstream Australian life. How can an Aboriginal child succeed in life with no English and limited education? It's yet another complex dilemma to be worked out.