The teaching of five endangered languages in New South Wales schools is the focus of a new plan to overhaul Indigenous affairs in the state.
The plan aims to keep Indigenous children at school and give them more concrete steps on a career path.
Kristina Kukolja with this report by Matthew Sadler of NITV News.
The new plan is being called OCHRE.
It stands for Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility and Empowerment.
Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Sydney, Professor Shane Houston, was on a special taskforce that helped to draw up the plan.
He says the link between learning Indigenous languages and improvements in other aspects of life is central to it.
“By teaching language, by locating that in a cultural context in our schools we’re not only going to be helping individuals with their own sense of identity we’re going to be helping them to be healthier individuals, to engage more effectively with primary and secondary school, to engage more effectively with the workplace and to engage more effectively with universities and the New South Wales society.”
The number of Aboriginal languages spoken in New South Wales has declined from 139, 200 years ago, to just 10.
The new plan will see five of these, Gamilaraay, Gumbaynggir, Bundjalung, Paarkintji and Wiradjuri taught in schools.
Victor Dominello is the NSW Aboriginal Affairs Minister.
“That will provide opportunities for kids at school to be able to learn their own languages taught by fluent Aboriginal speakers, where culture is included in the classroom, where language is included in the classroom on the same footing as other subjects. Culture and language is critical. That’s why we must do something now to preserve it and keep it alive for the next generation. If we don’t do something it will leave us on our watch.”
The New South Wales Government says that the new plan will consult with indigenous people regularly through a new Independent Aboriginal Council.
The Aboriginal Affairs Minister says the new council will report on and monitor the plan periodically.
“So we’ll work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to set the targets, achievable targets, realistic targets – not pie in the sky – over a set framework and work with them to achieve those targets.”
Chair of the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations, Stephen Ryan, is happy with the government’s attitude.
“Government has shown a willingness to help implement change and build a platform for that change. So that’s pretty important.”
The plan will also see the establishment of so-called Opportunity Hubs which will involve local employers in career planning while students are still at school.
They’ll also help to arrange job training, mentoring, and scholarships – and will continue to track the progress of young Indigenous people after they’ve left school and entered the workforce.