Chapter 5 Teaching Indigenous languages
As discussed in the previous chapter, schools are a resource and a venue
for whole communities. They are a place where families, teachers and children
come together in a learning environment. Teachers, Assistant Teachers, Cultural
Advisors and other community members have been and continue to be vital
ingredients in the teaching of Indigenous languages and culture and in the
broader education of children in Indigenous communities.
This chapter discusses the training and qualifications required to teach
Indigenous languages and the career and accreditation pathways available to
Indigenous language teachers. The Committees discusses the important role
Indigenous language teachers play in the classroom, especially in schools with
high numbers of Indigenous students with EAL/D needs, and the need to attract
and retain Indigenous language teachers. The Committee discusses EAL/D and
cultural training required by teachers.
Career and accreditation pathways for Indigenous language teachers
Indigenous language teaching courses
The availability of training for qualifications to teach Indigenous
languages is scattered across the country and is offered at a variety of Certificate,
Degree, Diploma and Masters levels.
Examples of Certificate level courses in Indigenous languages are:
n In South Australia,
the Murray Bridge TAFE offers Certificates I, II and III in Learning an
Endangered Aboriginal Language. The aim of the 2011 class was for the TAFE to
continue to offer this course and in addition offer a Certificate IV in
Teaching an Endangered Aboriginal Language to ‘give students the confidence and
qualifications to go on and teach the Ngarrindjeri language to others, either
in the TAFE sector or in schools or other institutions or just at home with
family’. Dr Mary-Anne Gale, a TAFE
SA lecturer, asserted that there is a huge demand among Aboriginal community
members, from both strong languages as well as languages under revival, for
further language training and called for further funding and support for TAFE
courses such as those offered at Murray Bridge
n TAFE NSW has developed
three nationally-recognised qualifications in Aboriginal Languages at
Certificate I, II and III levels. Each of the qualifications can be customised
to deliver training in any Aboriginal language, following consultation with and
permissions from Elders and/or knowledge-holders in the local community. As at
31 December 2010, Aboriginal course enrolments totalled 532 across all three
qualifications for Aboriginal Languages such as, Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri,
n the Muurrbay
Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative has joined with the North Coast
Institute of TAFE to offer a Certificate I in the Gathang language. Ms Anna
Ash, a Coordinator-Linguist with the Many Rivers Aboriginal Language Centre,
stated that 45 students were expected to graduate with a Certificate I during
2012. The course had attracted people from a variety of backgrounds, including teachers,
Aboriginal Education Assistants, people with an interest in language, Elders, and
Year 11/12 students. Gathang people who are qualified can teach the language in
school classrooms. The Many Rivers Aboriginal Language Centre supports and has
developed dictionaries for about seven Indigenous languages in NSW and hopes to
offer a Certificate I next year in the Yaygirr language.
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
The Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education (BIITE) is a
tertiary education provider that services the education, training and research
needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The BIITE offers a
range of courses aligned to employment opportunities in remote Australia and to
support the establishment of stronger, safer and healthier communities - from
preparatory courses to Vocational Education and Training (VET) certificates, diploma
level courses, higher education degrees, and postgraduate research programs.
Relevant VET courses that are available at BIITE include:
n Certificate I and Certificate
II in Indigenous Language and Knowledge Work - These courses provide a
qualification for employment as assistant language workers in community
language centres, school language programs, interpreting and various other
community based language areas. These courses enable the speakers of Indigenous
languages to participate more fully in employment and community activities,
developing skills that are readily transportable to a range of work contexts. The
targeted participants in these courses are people who speak an Indigenous
language and who are regarded as knowledge holders within their community or
family network. Typically this cohort comprises mature people who have lived in
remote settings for most of their lives, and
n Certificate III and
Certificate IV and Diploma in Education Support ‑These courses
provide the skills and knowledge required to work in schools as assistant
teachers and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education workers. The
courses cover a broad range of aspects of the work in classrooms and schools. To
be accepted into the courses all students must be employed by, or have access
to, a school or educational workplace where they can undertake the on-the-job
components of the course. The school through the school principal must be
prepared to commit to a program being run in their school in partnership
between BIITE and the school.
The higher education undergraduate programs of BIITE are delivered in
partnership with Charles Darwin University (CDU). In 2011 BIITE entered into a
collaborative partnership with CDU to establish the Australian Centre for
Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ACIKE) for the shared delivery of a range
of higher education and postgraduate study options which address the needs of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. ACIKE delivery began in
semester one of
Relevant courses offered by ACIKE in 2012 include:
n Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Knowledges
n Bachelor of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advocacy
n Bachelor of Indigenous Languages
n Bachelor of Teaching and
Learning (Pre Service)
n Bachelor of Teaching and
Learning Early Childhood
n Bachelor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
n Graduate Certificate of Indigenous Education
n Graduate Certificate in Yolngu Studies, and
n Graduate Diploma of Indigenous Knowledges.
Koori Centre, University of Sydney
The Master of Indigenous Language Education course is offered through
the Koori Centre at the University of Sydney. The aim of the course is to
sponsor qualified Indigenous teachers, working in NSW schools, to undertake
specialist language retraining in order to teach NSW Aboriginal languages in
NSW public schools and support the learning needs of students in Aboriginal
languages. The course is delivered in an away-from-base mode over three
one-week blocks each semester for one year. It is delivered flexibly through
block release. Teachers remain in their work settings and carry out their usual
teaching duties during the period of retraining. No language proficiency is
required prior to undertaking the course.
The course accepts people who are part way through completing a degree
qualification. Mr John Hobson from the University of Sydney explained that the
course had granted provisional entry into the masters course to graduates of
two years of teacher training:
They can do the first semester and graduate with a
certificate, or if they perform to a credit level across all the four units of
study they can enter the masters. We can have the anomalous situation of
somebody who has only two years training towards a teacher qualification graduating
from us with a masters..
Mr Hobson informed the Committee that there is currently no entry-level
teacher qualification that has national recognition for appointment to a
designated language teacher position in a school. The Master of Indigenous
Languages Education is recognised only by the New South Wales Department of
Education and Communities for appointment to a designated languages teacher
positions in New South Wales.
Limited authority to teach
A nationally recognised Indigenous languages teacher qualification would
allow those trained teachers to move and work across jurisdictions. However, many
people have an ambition to teach only their own language; they do not
necessarily want a four year teaching degree that allows them to teach in other
subject areas. One assistant teacher at the Alice Springs Languages Centre was
happy to remain an assistant teacher rather than go through further study to
become a qualified classroom teacher.
A limited authority to teach, such as exists in Western Australia, is
based on two years of training and permits people to teach their language in
their local school. Elders or recognised speakers of the language are delegated
authority to certify the adequacy of prospective teachers' fluency. Mrs Lola Jones,
the Aboriginal Languages Coordinator-Curriculum Officer with the Western
Australian Department of Education is responsible for running the state wide
Aboriginal languages teacher training. She explained the training program in Western
The training grew out of a need for Aboriginal people to be
able to get a qualification within the department. People who have completed
the training are recognised as teachers, have a limited authority to teach as a
language teacher and are paid as teachers. It has provided a career pathway for
Aboriginal people in WA education department.
Mr Hobson advocated for a national policy statement to guide teacher
accreditation bodies on limited authorities to teach, perhaps based on two
years of training, as is the case in Western Australia:
I think—a declaration, as I said, of national policy that we
need a structure of things like limited authorities to teach. We need
flexibility in recognition of teacher fluency and in recognition that different
languages are at different stages in the maximum level of fluency that any
person could possibly have.
While the Western Australian initiative is well supported, the state government
department is unable to find a university to conduct the training course. Mrs
Jones stated that the Western Australian Aboriginal languages teacher training
is an anomaly because all professional learning is run by herself through the Professional
There does not seem to be anybody else out there who can run
the training, so at the moment I am still running the training. We are looking
at universities to take on the training, which needs someone to teach the
methodology aspect of language teaching, someone to teach the IT skills for
making digital resources but you also need somebody who has the linguistics
skills to support language speakers.
Mrs Jones stated that Indigenous languages teacher training needs to
continue. However, the universities were concerned that the numbers of student
were too small to make it viable.
Mrs Faith Baisden from the Eastern States Aboriginal Languages Group (ESALG)
supported fast tracking registered teaching status for community teachers
through universities, which could reduce school expenses of requiring more than
one teacher in a classroom:
... the fact that there must be a registered teacher in the
class and that puts such an expense on the education system having to have the
registered teacher and then the community teacher in the classroom as well. We
are trying to talk to the providers of training for the teachers to fast-track
registered teaching status for community teachers. They may know their language
but let us get them to the point where they can become regular teachers as
well. Then we say to regular teachers, would you like to learn language and EAL
In many cases and for a variety of reasons, Indigenous people will not
complete full teaching degree qualifications.
The Committee commends the Western Australian government for the
development of the limited authority to teach qualification being offered to
Indigenous language teachers. This qualification allows Indigenous language
teachers a qualification to be able to teach in a school classroom without the
requirement of having a full teaching degree. The Committee believes this is a sound
initiative and would like to see it developed in other jurisdictions.
The Western Australian initiative has several benefits. The limited
authority to teach would not replace the need for more fully qualified
Indigenous teachers, but the flexibility of the qualification would enable the
schools to harness language expertise of local communities and provide
employment opportunities for those committed to their local community and not
seeking a national qualification.
Further, there should be clear pathways to full teacher qualifications
and access to strategies such as master-apprentice schemes, as recommended
later in this chapter.
The Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood comprises
of state, territory and Commonwealth Ministers with responsibility for these
areas. This Council is ideally placed to develop incentives and greater
opportunities for Indigenous language teacher training.
Recommendation 16 - Limited authority to teach
||The Committee recommends the Minister for Education work through
the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood and teacher
training authorities to develop a national framework of flexible and
accessible training for Indigenous people to gain limited authority
qualifications to teach.
The Committee notes the difficulty the Western Australian Government is
having with finding a university to conduct the limited authority to teach
course. Currently the course is being run by a dedicated officer within the
Department of Education.
The Committee believes governments at all levels should work with higher
education authorities to develop strategies to provide incentives for
universities to offer Indigenous language teacher training courses.
Recommendation 17 - Indigenous language teacher training
||The Committee recommends the Minister for Education work
through the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood to
develop incentives for teacher training institutions to offer Indigenous
language teacher training, such as a limited authority qualification to teach.
Accessible teacher training
Numerous participants to the inquiry supported greater accessibility to
teacher training. For example, Dr Brian Devlin from Charles Darwin University claimed
that teacher training is not accessible to many remote Indigenous residents. Dr
Devlin wrote in his submission that undertaking training in Darwin or Alice
Springs is not an option for many local people who have young children or
cannot live away from their partner/family for cultural reasons.
Some witnesses referred to the benefits of the Remote Area Teacher
Education (RATE) program which was offered by BIITE until the late 1990s and supported
a lecturer in some growth towns working with assistant teachers towards gaining
Ms Margaret Carew, a linguist working at BIITE, stated that qualified
Indigenous teachers who studied through the RATE program are ageing and there
is not the same number of qualified teachers coming through the system. Ms
Carew believed that those people who once would have trained as teachers under
the RATE program instead train as Indigenous education workers by completing
certificate level training and getting paid at a lower levels and having less
say in the school. Ms Carew believed there should be more community development
and flexibility in teacher training and qualifications. Ms Carew related a
story of an Indigenous literacy worker with many years experience:
A fabulous irony that I observed involved a woman I know, who
has never been a qualified teacher but who has worked for many years, since the
late sixties, as a literacy worker. She is a highly fluent writer of her first
language and a fluent speaker of course of a number of languages of the area.
She qualified a couple of years ago through Batchelor as a Certificate III as
an Indigenous education worker. I thought there was a kind of sad irony in that
that is about as far as she has got, and she does not even live in Maningrida
anymore; she lives in Darwin. So there has been a disenfranchisement.
The Committee received evidence of unhappiness around the merger between
BIITE and CDU. Some witnesses were concerned that there would be less
accessibility and support for students in higher education courses,
particularly for Indigenous people living in remote areas.
Ms Janine Oldfield, a lecturer at BIITE in Alice Springs spoke of
decline in numbers of student enrolments in the higher education courses. Ms
Oldfield attributed some of the reduction in enrolment numbers to the barriers
around online enrolment and insufficient marketing of courses offered:
We do not appear to have any new enrolments; we think there
is a complication with the enrolment status. People have to do online
enrolment, which is quite difficult for remote people. It is a very complicated
enrolment process. I find it extraordinarily difficult; I can barely get
through it myself. It is not well advertised. People do not know anything about
ACIKE, so it is not attracting people. People do not even know Batchelor is
still doing higher ed[ucation]. Remote areas are being told by schools and
principals that there is no Batchelor higher ed[ucation] anymore. So at this
stage we are seeing a drastic reduction in numbers.
At the public hearing in Darwin, Dr Laughren agreed that there is no incentive
or invitation for remote Aboriginal people to do teacher training.
Ms Claire Kilgariff from the BIITE acknowledged that numbers of students
enrolled in the higher education had diminished during 2012 as they moved into
the ACIKE partnership. However, Ms Kilgariff believed those numbers would
increase as the ACIKE brand becomes better known and students understand the
courses on offer.
Ms Kilgariff stated that the BIITE was in a difficult financial state
and that economic sustainability was part of the reason to push a partnership
with CDU. However, it was clarified at the public hearing in Darwin that BIITE
is now in a healthy financial state. Ms Kilgariff stated that BIITE is working
to ensure that it is still able to supply the same level of support for its
students and that its staff are able to provide the same level of commitment:
Whilst our two institutions are partnered together, the
students are still able to choose to study in the Batchelor mode, as we call
it. That means they are able to attend workshops at Batchelor and then have
online support and then come back to Batchelor for a final workshop. At first,
when the partnership was proposed, there was a strong anxiety that students
would not still be able to study in that environment of cultural safety where
they would be Indigenous only students. We have very strongly maintained that,
even to the extent that, in online environments, we have been very determined
and passionate about ensuring that the students are in an Indigenous only environment.
If they choose to they can actually enter into the larger student body
environment but they are actually get the choice whether to do that.
School release for teacher training
Some witnesses referred to the benefits of education departments encouraging
the professional development of their Indigenous language teachers and
supporting their release from schools for further development and
qualifications. Ms Lola Jones from the Western Australian Department of
Education stated that the department supports the release of language teachers
to undertake further study:
The department has just organised through one of the
universities that, if language teachers decide to go on and do a full teaching
degree, while they are on teaching prac their school gets teacher relief paid.
While they do their block releases their school gets teacher relief. And it
also means that they stay on salary while they are doing their study. A teacher
at one of the high schools in the Goldfields is currently studying at Curtin
University. When she goes away for five weeks of block release she still gets
paid; her school gets a relief teacher provided. That is encouraging our
language teachers to gain a full degree as a classroom teacher.
Another example is the Yipirinya School in Central Australia which gives
incentives to its Indigenous staff to study at BIITE to gain certification and
qualifications. Mr Lance Box from the Yipirinya School stated:
We have actually had one of our staff members go through and
qualify as a classroom teacher. She was teaching in our school until she had to
leave due to pregnancy. She will be back. We have another two teachers who have
recently enrolled in a diploma of teaching course. Hopefully, in three or four
years time they will be qualified teachers. ... They are currently studying
through Batchelor Institute and currently work as assistant teachers in our
The principal of Arlparra School in the Utopia Homelands felt privileged
to work in a school where all assistant teachers were supported to undertake
In New South Wales Aboriginal teachers are able to apply for sponsorship
from the Aboriginal Education and Training Directorate for HECS contributions
and relief payments to attend study blocks in order to complete the
postgraduate Master of Indigenous Language Education program.
In contrast, the Committee received some evidence that teachers are
unable to be released from their workplaces to take further study in teaching
Indigenous languages. Mrs Anna Ash from Muurrbay
Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative (MALCC) in NSW believed the education
departments should provide greater support for teacher release for training and
Coaching and mentoring Indigenous language teachers
Witnesses referred to the importance of ongoing in-school support, such
as coaching and mentoring, for Indigenous teachers.
Mr Peter Williams from the MALCC in New South Wales supported in-service
training by language experts for assistant teachers:
Language is being taught in primary and high schools in a
whole of the areas and we are stretched to the limit as far as teachers go. We
feel if we can teach people like teachers aides in-service they can help in the
classroom. We know they are pretty much burdened with what they do and this
will be just a little more, but then they would be a bit more qualified and
therefore their pay scales can go up.
In the Kimberley in Western Australia, teacher trainees are observed and
given in-school support depending on what their needs are. Mrs Jones spoke of
the importance of language teachers having mentors who might be language
teachers, elders or language specialists. Mrs Jones stated that language
teachers must work through the complexities of ensuring their teaching is
culturally and age appropriate and linguistically correct. Mrs Jones believed
the master-apprentice model, whereby a fluent speaker, a master, works with a
partial speaker, an apprentice, can be effective in-service support for
The importance of language teachers having strong relationships with the
language speakers was reinforced:
Old people were multilingual and they carried those
languages, and we do not want to be messing them up now because we are saying
it wrong. Sometimes when you are reviving a language it is really hard because
the grammar of the language is very different from English. So you want to make
sure you are getting it right, and that is a hard thing for our language
The New South Wales government supported the establishment of
master-apprentice schemes to encourage an increase in the number of language
teachers, and the implementation of succession training for the long term
sustainability of language learning programs. Ms Carew, a linguist at
BIITE, supported further evaluation of the merits of the master-apprentice
model as a way of supporting advocacy and networking of key people working in
Indigenous languages areas.
Margaret Florey from the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity
stated that the master-apprentice model has ‘worked with great effect in other
parts of the world’ to revitalise languages.
The Committee recognises there is a desperate need for more Indigenous
language teachers throughout Australia. Indigenous people who have the ambition
to become qualified teachers and specialist teachers must have accessibility to
training to further their career. This will require a greater degree of
flexibility from schools as well as training institutions.
In some circumstances state and territory governments are supporting
schools to release teacher assistants to attend further studies. The Committee
supports the efforts by state and territory governments to make language
teaching qualifications more accessible.
However, the Committee heard that some schools are reluctant to release
Indigenous language teachers for training and development. The Committee
considers that training and development is essential and needs to be valued and
prioritised by education departments in all jurisdictions.
Ongoing in-school mentoring and coaching is an important aspect of
developing the skills of an Indigenous language teacher. The Committee
encourages the states and territories to support the coaching and mentoring of
teachers by Indigenous language experts.
In addition, the Committee views the master-apprentice model as an
effective way to provide further development for Indigenous language teachers
in schools. The use of the master-apprentice model in schools would have the
added effect of encouraging the maintenance and revival of Indigenous languages
where there are a limited number of fluent speakers.
Recommendation 18 - Indigenous language teachers - training and
||The Committee recommends that the Minister for Education
work through the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood to
develop strategies for training Indigenous language teachers to improve access
to qualifications, full accreditation and career pathways as well as
providing school support and mentorship where required.
Recommendation 19 – Master-apprentice schemes
||The Committee recommends that the Minister for Education
work through the Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood to
give consideration to establishing master-apprentice schemes in schools to
provide in-service support for Indigenous language teachers.
Attracting and retaining Indigenous teachers
A majority of regional and remote schools have difficulty in attracting
and retaining teachers. One of the proposed solutions is to encourage
Indigenous people from communities to train as teachers.
Some witnesses asserted that, in many cases, Indigenous teachers will
remain in their communities to teach, providing communities with some
continuity in qualified staff who can speak the first language. Conversely, non
Indigenous teachers in regional and remote schools tend to remain in
communities for shorter periods.
Professor Jane Simpson spoke of the benefits of investing in training
Indigenous teachers at BIITE:
... it would be well worth investing heavily in places like
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. The really important
thing, particularly for remote communities, is having teachers who are prepared
to stay there for more than a year. I think the only way you will get that is
through training local Indigenous people, supporting Batchelor college in
recruiting teachers from remote areas and giving those teachers EAL training.
That would be a really excellent investment.
The retention rate of teachers in remote areas of the Northern Territory
has been around six to seven months. Under the Northern Territory Emergency
Response, the Commonwealth Government was engaged with the Northern Territory
Government in recruiting 200 additional teachers for remote schools in the
Northern Territory by the end of 2012. The retention rate of teachers in remote
communities improved since the additional teachers were recruited as there has
been a focus on recruiting and retaining quality teachers in remote areas.
Under the Quality Teaching and Enhancing Literacy measure, the
Commonwealth Government committed $44.3 million over three years (2009-10 to
2011-12) to Northern Territory education providers to develop career pathways
for Indigenous staff, increase the number of Indigenous staff with education
qualifications, and provide support and programs to enable teachers and
students achieve improved outcomes in literacy and numeracy in 73 targeted
The Northern Territory Government asserted that one of the biggest
issues in teaching in Indigenous communities is that they do not have enough
qualified Indigenous teachers who speak both Standard Australian English (SAE)
and Indigenous languages. Through the Local Teachers in Local Schools initiative
the Northern Territory Government has set a target of 200 additional Indigenous
teachers by the year 2018.
The Local Teachers in Local Schools initiative aims to address
some of the challenges of recruiting and retaining quality teaching staff for
remote communities by assisting Indigenous students to become teachers, with a
focus on encouraging them to stay at school longer and to consider a career in
teaching. This includes mentoring senior secondary students, particularly in
very remote Indigenous schools.
At the public hearing in Darwin, Minister McCarthy from the Northern
Territory Government, told the Committee there are 115 Indigenous teachers
working in DET schools and 51 Indigenous Territorians being supported to study
teacher education through various programs.
Recognising the value of Indigenous teachers
Indigenous teachers working in schools have completed different levels
of teaching qualifications. Teachers and assistant teachers and are considered
essential elements of school staff by communities and local schools. The
Yiripinya School in Central Australia, which teaches four of the central desert
languages, employs Indigenous staff as teachers, assistant teachers, council
members and various ancillary positions.
In the Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School in Acacia
Ridge in Queensland where there are high numbers of Indigenous staff,
attendance rates of students are higher than average.
Mr John Bradbury, who worked on numeracy projects in remote schools with
high Indigenous populations in the Northern Territory for six years, argued
that investing in assistant teachers helps to create a sustainable resource. A
finding of the projects was that an equal partnership between the classroom
teacher and the assistant teacher was essential and helped to achieve better
outcomes for students. Mr Bradbury stated that there was very positive feedback
from the assistant teachers, the schools and the local community about the
community engagement and community empowerment that was happening.
Ms Kerry Kasmira, the Principal at Arlparra School in Utopia Homelands, emphasised
the value of Indigenous assistant teachers who speak and understand English and
the local Indigenous language:
Without exception, our assistant teachers have far more
professional diversity than any of the white teachers here, in terms of being
able to address the needs of the students.
Many witnesses referred to the important role local Indigenous teachers
play in teaching children their contact language as well as Standard Australian
English (SAE). Mr Richard Trudgen relayed
a conversation with Indigenous Elders who believed they could read, write and
speak English well because they were taught by teachers who spoke their first
Mrs Nyoka Hatfield talked about her own experiences teaching Dharumbal
language and culture in Queensland schools:
I have never had any teacher training or education. I am
lucky because the teachers that I do come up with say that I have a gift. And I
am thankful that I have that gift. I know that a lot of other Indigenous people
on their own country will not have that gift. But there are also a lot who will
have it and will be able to connect with the children and interact with them
the way that I do. I suppose that I am looking at it from the perspective of
not having teacher training or being teachers.
... I suppose that I could have gone and had that training. I
had the opportunity. But I thought that I did not have the time, as what I
wanted to do needed to be done now. I had to get into those schools and do
things now, because you never know what is going to happen. For myself, it just
comes from my experience and my knowledge of my culture and my language. That is
the capacity in which I go into the schools.
The New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Department of
Education and Communities supported strategies to ensure that community based
language teachers receive appropriate wages, conditions of employment,
accreditation and support, which is commensurate with the expertise and
valuable role they fulfil in language learning:
There is no acknowledgment of prior learning for the
significant cultural knowledge that these language speakers bring into the
classroom. The lack of an adequate wage for community language teachers is
compounded by insecurity of employment, with a lack of permanency in language
teaching positions. Standard employment conditions such as sick leave
entitlements and professional training are not accessible for community
Mrs Jones from the Western Australian Department of Education spoke of
the special skills a qualified Indigenous languages teacher brings to a school
and should be paid more than classroom teachers:
I see that they are the top of the heap, because you have to
have not only all the skills of a teacher but also the language skills. Most of
our language teachers only want to teach language; they are not interested in
science and social studies and all those other things. There are lots of
non-Aboriginal teachers who can teach that, or Aboriginal teachers who do not
speak their language, who do not come from that area. Aboriginal teachers who
graduate as language teachers have all the teaching and reporting
responsibilities that other teachers have. ...
I think language teachers should be paid more than classroom
teachers, because they have got double skills. It is not just the teaching; you
have also got the language component.
Other participants in the inquiry argued for a review of pay scales for
Indigenous language teachers which include recognition of language knowledge
and accreditation at a range of levels. Ms Ash from MALCC supported
pay scales which value and recognise people who have completed various levels
of training and qualifications:
Various departments of education need to recognise the
importance of those people, pay scales need to be developed, positions need to
be created. A couple of the Gumbanynggir teachers are very well qualified. They
might have a masters in the Indigenous language education, but they are being
employed on a casual basis across several schools. They have no job security
and no holiday pay. It is disgusting that people are so neglected. Maybe the
education departments have to be alerted to some of the problems and made to
realise that it is essential that they deal with this situation.
The evidence clearly demonstrated that schools place high value on the
work of Indigenous teachers, whether they are qualified at teacher or assistant
teacher level. School principals and other school staff recognise the value of
the language and cultural knowledge that Indigenous assistant teachers bring to
The Committee believes that there is a need for more Indigenous teachers
in schools and better recognition of the work they do. In language learning
classrooms it is important to have a mix of qualified teachers, teacher
assistants, volunteers, and fluent language speakers.
Attracting and retaining people to Indigenous language teacher positions
is a challenging prospect, especially in remote areas, and governments are
implementing programs to support more Indigenous teaching positions. The
Committee believes that valuing and recognising the work of Indigenous teachers
will go a long way towards attracting and retaining teachers.
Many assistant teachers come to school without formal qualifications.
However, Indigenous teachers have the cultural and language knowledge that is
an important ingredient in the mix of teaching staff.
As previously stated, the Committee believes teacher training should be
accessible and offered at different qualification levels. Pay scales should
reflect the skills and value that Indigenous teachers bring to the classroom. The
Committee stresses there should be clear career pathways to full teaching
The Committee notes that the Western Australian Department of Education
is paying teachers who gain the limited authority to teach qualification with
the equivalent salary of a fully qualified teacher.
The Committee encourages all state and territory governments to review
pay scales for Indigenous assistant teachers and any expansion of the limited
authority to teach positions, in order to ensure the scales adequately reflect the
skills these teachers bring to the schools.
Indigenous language teaching resources
Resources need to be available in languages which are being taught in
school. In many Indigenous languages those resources may be scarce. Owing to
the diversity of Indigenous languages there have not been sufficient resources
produced to teach some languages.
Many language programs have small budgets and the Committee heard
numerous times about people working in the field voluntarily in order to save
their language. The Eastern States Indigenous Languages Group called for an ‘urgent
injection of funds into the development of resources’.
Despite these funding challenges several resources for teaching
Indigenous languages were shown to the Committee throughout Australia. The
Committee was impressed with the range of hard copy language learning
Dictionary and Learner’s Grammar, and several other language work books and
Dreamtime stories by Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative,
Nambucca Heads, New South Wales
n Children’s booklets
using both Dharumbal language and English, by Nicky Hatfield and the Gidarjil
Corporation, Rockhampton, Queensland
n Stories and
children’s readers in numerous languages produced by Papulu Apparr-Kari
Language Corporation, Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, and
n Language learning
resources including playing cards and flash cards in Yawuru, by Nyamba Buru
Yawuru, Broome, Western Australia.
Dr Marmion from Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Affairs (AIATSIS) stated that, with assistance, schools can produce
their own materials. Dr Robert Jackson from
the Australian Council of TESOL Associations (ACTA) referred to resources which
are being produced locally in communities, however Indigenous languages
teachers and students do not have access to resources in some Indigenous
I am aware of some very good resources that have been
produced, but they are being produced for local solutions, local communities.
... Again, with a lot of Aboriginal students you are looking at a language that
does not have a print form, a written form. That is another overlay. You need to
then transcribe the language, have a written version of the language, and then
get the student used to the idea that language occurs both in an oral form and
in a print-based form. That is another step.
Mrs Lola Jones from the Western Australian Department of Education
stated one of the major issues with teaching Indigenous languages is the need
to produce resources:
We currently have 20 Aboriginal languages taught in 55
department schools in Western Australia, but you cannot go and buy a Walmajarri
or a Yawuru set of resources. So resource production was one of our biggest
areas as well as training people.
She explained that it became necessary to start producing resources in
Indigenous languages and the Western Australian Department of Education is using
different technologies to create resources such as digital dictionaries:
We started with handdrawn and handwritten materials, and then
photocopiers came along and we had blackline masters and we thought we were
really flash. Now we have digital images and we have digital resources and we
can display our books and materials on interactive whiteboards. So we have
really come from the draw-it-yourself and do-it-yourself age to the digital
age. One of the others mentioned that they are working with the Lexique Pro
dictionary, which is an interactive dictionary on the computer. We are running
training for a couple of languages at the moment for teachers to input data
into Lexique Pro dictionaries so that kids in school have more access to
Other states and territories are using technologies to produce
resources. The Northern Territory Department of Education and Training is contributing
$160 000 to the Living Archives of Aboriginal Languages project that will
digitise and create a computer archive of publications in more than 16 Northern
Territory-Australian Indigenous languages. The Northern Territory Library has
developed several resources concentrating on early childhood programs and
preserving languages in books and using multimedia resources such as iPads. 
The issue of ownership of copyright of resources has been highlighted by
participants in the inquiry. Mrs Faith Baisden from the ESALG described a
situation in which a community teacher had produced resources with a school and
the Department of Education and Training took ownership of those resources. Mrs
Baisden claimed that this causes anxiety for people who put their language
information into those resources only to have the government hold copyright on
it. Mrs Baisden supported communities producing material and selling it:
Another thing we would like to say about resources is:
wouldn't it be great to support communities to produce their own and sell them
back to the departments? That would be a way of capacity building, business
building and helping the communities make their own and sell them back and you
will not have that issue.
The NSW Board of Studies referred to the recognition deserved by
Indigenous people who work to teach language and produce resources for use in
There are many cases where community members have devoted
years of effort to developing their own skills in the local language, producing
resources and teaching, often for little payment, only to see the program
disappear because of a change of classroom teacher or school principal. This is
particularly dispiriting for the Aboriginal people who typically remain in
their community year after year, while school personnel tend to move on quite
The Committee has considered the long term establishment of a library of
Indigenous language resources. New technologies are the way forward to produce
a multitude of cost-effective resources for teaching in the many Indigenous
languages across the country. Resources produced with new technologies could be
transferred more easily across jurisdictions and in different Indigenous languages.
In Chapter 7 the Committee discusses archiving and storing Indigenous language
resources for future generations.
The Committee recognises the considerable work, expertise and passion
behind producing the books, posters, CDs, audio visuals, databases and other
resources by language centres, community members, elders and linguists. It is
important that these resources are available to schools and teachers as part of
the teaching resources.
Government education departments need to understand and respect
community attachment to and the cultural significance of the language resources
being produced, and work with the schools to ensure that relevant Indigenous
language resources are included in schools where possible.
The Committee encourages better partnerships and coordination between
schools, language centres and other community groups in terms of sharing Indigenous
resources and facilitating Indigenous language learning within schools.
The Committee considers that language resources funded by the Indigenous
Language Support (ILS) program and produced by language centres and communities
should be available to be shared with local schools for the mutual benefit of teachers
and students and the revitalisation and maintenance of the language.
Recommendation 20 - Sharing language teaching resources
||The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government
amend the Indigenous Language Support (ILS) program funding criteria to
ensure that language materials produced with ILS program support should,
where practical and culturally appropriate, be available to be shared with
schools and educational institutions as a teaching resource, with proper
acknowledgment of its creators.
The Committee received a significant amount of evidence that teachers in
Indigenous communities require training in teaching English as an additional
language or dialect (EAL/D). As discussed earlier, for many Indigenous students
English is not their first language and they may communicate to varying degrees
across a range of Indigenous and contact languages. Many participants in the
inquiry referred to the need for all teachers to have some experience and a
sound knowledge of how to teach EAL/D, particularly when the school has a high
number of students with EAL/D.
Miss Claire Gorman, a former teacher and current Queensland Department
of Education and Training (Queensland DET) representative, discussed the
importance of developing knowledge in teaching EAL/D to Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander students:
I often say when I am talking to people that as a teacher it
took me years not only to understand the barrier that not having English was
creating for the students in my classrooms but to become highly skilled to the
point where I think I was making a difference with the kids I was teaching.
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation recommended:
... teaching of English as a second language become a
compulsory training component for teachers in remote Aboriginal communities in
recognition of the fact that English is a second, third or even fourth language
for many Aboriginal children, particularly in those communities.
Mr John Hobson referred to the damage that can occur if a teacher does
not have EAL training before teaching in a remote Indigenous community:
I would advocate that if people are going to go into remote
Indigenous schools it should be an absolutely essential requirement for
placement that they do have EAL training. Without it they are largely a burden
on the community. It is inflicting an ineffective teacher on the students.
These kids are so far behind the eight ball now that they really need our best EAL
teachers to be working with them, not predominantly first-year-out people who
are going to last three months ... .
Many teacher training institutions have an EAL/D component, however it
is not a compulsory part of training and accreditation in any jurisdiction.
Every new teacher in the Northern Territory has access to a course on
teaching EAL at Charlies Darwin University which is funded by the Northern
Territory Government. Kerry Kasmira, the
Principal at Arlparra School in the Utopia Homelands, stated that there is
strong departmental support for EAL training in the Northern Territory. Three
out of nine of her staff were involved in post-graduate studies in EAL/D and
one of her senior teachers was completing a masters in teaching EAL/D. 
The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in
Australian schools speak a variety of Aboriginal English, an Aboriginal or
Torres Strait Islander creole, one or more traditional heritage languages or
any combination of these as their home language. Mr Robert Jackson from ACTA
referred to incorrect assumptions by schools that Indigenous students home
language is English:
Currently, in many situations where students speak a variety
of Aboriginal English and/or an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander creole as
their home language, this language or language variety is unnamed or
unidentified and thus goes unrecognised by schools and education authorities.
It is assumed, incorrectly, that the student's home language is English.
Students are often subjected to unsuitable instruction or methodologies and
inappropriate referrals for educational remediation as a result.
The Aboriginal and Islander Independent Community School Inc in
Queensland submitted that the majority of their students speak Aboriginal
English, therefore it is important that greater attention is given within
Indigenous education policy and programs to the role that Aboriginal English
plays in the literacy and language skills of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander students. The school recommended that pre-service teacher education in
Australia address Aboriginal English use by urban Indigenous students and the
importance this plays in their connection to their traditional languages, their
academic achievement and the maintenance of their distinct cultural identity as
first nations peoples.
Many Aboriginal students in NSW's public schools use some form of
Aboriginal English as their main language. Many Aboriginal students are bi-dialectal,
meaning they use both Aboriginal English and Standard Australian English at
home and at school. The NSW Department of Education and Communities' Aboriginal
Education and Training Directorate provides professional learning and advice to
teachers in developing bi-dialectal approaches to teaching Standard Australian
English to Aboriginal students who speak Aboriginal English as their home
In NSW teachers from 88 schools were offered a two-day course supporting
application of EAL in delivering English literacy to Aboriginal students:
I am aware that the 88 schools took up the opportunity. What
happened was: when we were targeting particular teachers, the enthusiasm was so
great that we had more than the two or three teachers in the school who were
going to attend, attending. That is a very exciting outcome because it
demonstrates the recognition of Aboriginal English. It also demonstrates the
critical importance of this: our students are being taught, assessed and
reported on in standard Australian English; they are speaking Aboriginal
English, so the understandings of the constructs and code-switching those
students encounter every day in the engagement of education in general is
critical. That is one of the most positive results of doing the EAL strategy in
New South Wales.
In Western Australia the Literacy and English as a Second Language in
the Early Years Project operates across the Government, Catholic and
Independent schools sectors. The project’s aim is to improve the literacy
outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students whose home language
is not English. To achieve its goal, the project is addressing three key
elements - teacher professional learning, school leadership, and advanced
In Queensland the Bridging the Language Gap project, funded by the Commonwealth
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and involving
the Queensland Department of Education and the Queensland Catholic Education
Commission, supported personnel from 89 schools to provide professional
development to assist with building their capacity to identify, support and
monitor EAL/D learners in the process of learning Standard Australian English
The Northern Indigenous Schooling Support Unit (ISSU) in Queensland has
a Language Perspectives Team that consists of teachers and linguists. The team
conducts research on second language acquisition and vernacular languages,
supports schools with building capacity to meet the needs of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander EAL/D learners. The ISSU Languages Perspectives Team
supports the following projects:
Initiative - Teachers who are experienced at teaching Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander EAL/D learners work with schools and teachers to help build
their capacity, and
n EAL Essentials
workshops – four day workshops to provide an initial source of information for
teachers who are working with Indigenous EAL students. The workshop provides an
opportunity to develop understandings and practical skills for the classroom.
The Queensland Department of Education and Training is the lead agency
working with equivalent departments in other states to develop professional
development resources to support with building the capacity of teachers to meet
the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander EAL/D learners. The two
cross jurisdictional projects are:
n the Teaching English
as An Additional Language or Dialect Online Professional Learning Resource
project will develop a comprehensive professional development course in-line
with the National Professional Standards for Teachers. It will align with
professional development and registration requirements for participating
jurisdictions and will possibly have links with universities. The resource is
scheduled to be available for use by teachers from mid 2013, and
n the English as an
Additional Language or Dialect Online Package will provide teachers new
to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander schools pragmatic, practical
strategies to assist them will their first 10 weeks in the remote context.
In addition to EAL/D training, cultural training should be considered an
essential part of a teacher’s training. Young teachers often begin their
teaching career in remote Indigenous communities where preparatory cultural and
language training is essential. However, currently such training is only
In Queensland the Remote Area Teacher Education Program has been
developed by James Cook University and has a mandatory component in Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander cultures as part of its teacher pre-service
training. Also in Queensland, the
state government is working with the Australian Institute for Teaching and
School Leadership (AITSL) on developing the resources for pre-service teaching
around culture and language.
In present day Australia there are children from a vast array of
cultures and first languages or dialects. This is the rich tapestry of culture
prevalent in today’s society and is not confined to remote areas or to areas of
high Indigenous populations.
The evidence to the Committee demonstrated that there are high numbers
of Indigenous students going to school in urban, regional and remote areas with
a first language or dialect other than SAE.
The Committee believes that students who speak dialects or creoles, such
as Aboriginal English, may require EAL/D teaching. In Chapter 4 the Committee
recommended that education departments identify the first language spoken by
the child when commencing early childhood learning. These assessments would
assist with understanding the demand for EAL/D teaching not sufficiently
utilised and funded in schools.
The Committee agrees with many participants in the inquiry that every
trainee teacher should have EAL/D training so that they have the requisite
skills to aid the child’s learning and ensure schooling is a productive rather
than a confusing learning environment.
In particular, the Committee is of the view all teachers working in
schools with a high percentage of EAL/D students should be required to have EAL/D
The Committee considers there needs to be a shift in teacher training
institutions to recognise EAL/D as an essential part of teacher training. The
requirement needs to come from the state education departments to drive teacher
training institutions to provide EAL training as a compulsory part of their
EAL/D training should be a requisite part of pre-service training. In
addition, in-service EAL/D training for those teachers already working in
schools should be expanded and all teachers be required to undertake this
training as part of mandatory professional development.
An understanding and respect of the culture and language of an
Indigenous community is an important part of teacher training. The Committee
supports the Queensland Government’s focus on cultural training for teachers placed
in Indigenous communities or schools with high numbers of Indigenous students.
Recommendation 21 - Compulsory EAL/D training for teaching
||The Committee recommends the Minister for Education take to
the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) a proposal to include a
compulsory component of English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D)
training for all teaching degrees.
Recommendation 22 – In-service EAL/D and cultural awareness
||The Committee recommends the Minister for Education take to
the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) a proposal that all teachers
already working in schools in Indigenous communities be required to complete
in-service EAL/D and cultural awareness training as part of mandatory