Celebrating Indigenous Australian
children’s languages:
Diversity, competence, and support
Professor Sharynne McLeod and Sarah Verdon
Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW, Australia
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Acknowledgments
• Laura Bennetts Kneebone, Deborah
Kikkawa, and Fiona Skelton - Footprints in
Time, Department of Social Services
• Knowledge and insights from the Wiradjuri
people
• This paper was supported by Australian
Research Council Future Fellowship
FT0990588
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:
“Indigenous peoples have the right to
revitalise, use, develop and transmit to
future generations their histories,
languages, oral traditions, philosophies,
writing systems and literatures, and to
designate and retain their own names for
communities, places and persons.”
United Nations. (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved
from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Preservation of Indigenous Australian
languages is important
• Cultural beliefs, practices, and identity are
transmitted through language
• Australia has been identified as the continent
where the most rapid decline in languages is
occurring (Nettle & Romaine, 2000)
• Intergenerational transmission of Indigenous
Australian languages is endangered
Nettle, N., & Romaine, S. (2000). Vanishing voices: The extinction of the world’s languages. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Aims
1. To describe the types of languages
spoken by Indigenous Australian children
2. To describe the speech and language
competence of Indigenous Australian
children
3. To describe the language environment of
Indigenous Australian children
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Footprints in Time
• Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children
is supported by Indigenous Australians and
funded and managed by the Australian
government
• Indigenous interviewers in eleven sites
across Australia conduct face-to-face
interviews with children, their carers, and
teachers each year
• Commenced in 2008 with five annual
waves of data available
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Where are Footprints families?
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Participants
•Participants from the Child cohort
• 692 3- to 5-year-old children and primary caregivers
•
(wave 1)
570 5- to 7-year-old children and primary caregivers
(wave 3)
•The largest groups were
• Wiradjuri, Arrernte, Yorta Yorta, and Gamilaraay
(from wave 1 report)
•Information was provided by the parent who
knew each child the best (FaHCSIA, 2009, 2012)
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Number of languages spoken by children
The children spoke between 1 and 8 languages
3- to 5-year-olds
5- to 7-year-olds
English
Indigenous
languages
91.2%
24.4%
99.6%
26.8%
Creoles
Foreign
languages
11.5%
2.0%
13.7%
5.1%
Sign languages
0.6%
0.4%
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Number of languages spoken by children
compared with their parents (P1)
English
Indigenous
languages
Creoles
Foreign
languages
Sign languages
3- to 5-year-olds
91.2%
Parent 1
92.6%
24.4%
28.0%
11.5%
2.0%
2.3%
0.6%
0.0%
If P1 spoke an Indigenous language then 83.0%
of children also spoke an Indigenous language
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Impact of location on languages spoken
•Children who spoke an Indigenous language were
more likely to live in moderate to extreme isolation
•Children who spoke English, or a foreign or sign
language lived in less-isolated places
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Activities undertaken in an Indigenous language
3- to 5-year-old children
(n = 692)
Activity in an Indigenous
language
Played outdoors
94.9%
6.2%
Played indoors with
toys or games
Played music, sang,
danced
Shopping
93.4%
5.9%
91.0%
7.8%
89.5%
5.3%
Drew pictures, art, or
craft activities
Housework/cooking
81.9%
5.5%
78.5%
5.0%
Went to playground
74.9%
5.2%
Swimming
50.3%
10.1%
Played computer, Xbox,
Playstation
48.3%
4.2%
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Language support at 3 to 5 years
Told an oral story to
the child
Read a book
to the child
Overall
72.0%
79.0%
Mother
54.3%
64.3%
Father
23.7%
21.2%
Sister
11.4%
17.8%
Brother
9.5%
10.7%
Grandmother
15.8%
9.7%
Grandfather
5.4%
2.9%
Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers and others also were involved in these activities
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Language support at 5 to 7 years
Told an oral
story to the
child
Read a book
to the child
Listened to the
child read
Overall
70.4%
80.7%
83.5%
Mother
45.1%
59.8%
72.1%
Father
20.9%
19.6%
27.2%
Sister
7.2%
12.5%
14.6%
Brother
4.7%
4.0%
8.1%
Grandmother
11.6%
7.9%
11.8%
Grandfather
4.7%
1.8%
3.2%
Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers and others also were involved in these activities
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Passing on Indigenous languages
to the next generation
•Almost a third of parents identified “speaking
languages” as one of the five most important
aspects of Indigenous culture that they wanted to
pass on to their children
•Almost all parents indicated that they would like
their child to learn an Indigenous language at
school in some capacity
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
Summary
•Footprints in Time is the largest study of Indigenous
children in the world
•Many Indigenous children are multilingual with some
speaking up to 8 languages
•A quarter of children spoke an Indigenous language
•Indigenous Australian children have rich cultural and
linguistic traditions and their speech and language
competence is promoted through family and community
experiences.
•Almost all parents wanted their children to learn an
Indigenous language at school in some capacity
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
More information
The full version of this paper has been published:
McLeod, S., Verdon, S., & Bennetts Kneebone,
L. (2014). Celebrating Indigenous Australian
children’s speech and language competence.
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 29(2), 118131.
Email
[email protected]
[email protected]
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
References
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs (FaHCSIA, 2009). Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study
of Indigenous Children: Key summary report from wave 1. Canberra,
Australia: Author.
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs (FaHCSIA, 2012). Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study
of Indigenous Children: Key summary report from wave 3. Canberra,
Australia: Author.
Nettle, N., & Romaine, S. (2000). Vanishing voices: The extinction of the
world’s languages. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
United Nations. (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples. Geneva, Switzerland: Author. Retrieved from
http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf
Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning & Education
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