Funding for app to support language revitalisation

Indigenous language classes at Dubbo West Public School: Diane McNaboe, teacher of Aboriginal language and culture, with Bryson (left), Lily and Thomas singing a song. Photo: Peter Rae
Indigenous language classes at Dubbo West Public School: Diane McNaboe, teacher of Aboriginal language and culture, with Bryson (left), Lily and Thomas singing a song. Photo: Peter Rae

Translations between the Wiradjuri and English languages - there will soon be an app for that, and the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nest at Dubbo will play a part in its development.

NSW Aboriginal affairs minister Victor Dominello on Sunday announced $185,000 in funding for the development of an app to support the maintenance and revitalisation of five Aboriginal languages in NSW.

He said the app, through mobile devices, would provide audio recordings of commonly used words and phrases in the languages of Bundjalung, Gamilaraay/ Yuwaalaraay/ Yuwaalayaay, Gumbaynggirr, Paakantji and North West Wiradjuri.

"The content of the app will be determined by communities associated with the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nest sites established in 2014," Mr Dominello said.

"Aboriginal students who have the opportunity to learn traditional language are often more engaged in the classroom - helping them to build a stronger sense of individual pride and cultural identity.

"The sustainability of remaining Aboriginal languages will be compromised if we do not make a long-term investment to train more people to teach traditional languages.

"That's why, through OCHRE: the NSW Government Plan for Aboriginal affairs, we've made a significant investment to revitalise the teaching of language and this initiative will help to bolster the work of the five Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests.

"The Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards and the Department of Education and Communities will work with the five language nests communities to develop a customised app during 2015.

"A language app may contain word matching and text translation games where learners look at an image or listen to an audio recording.

"It may also be used to identify the written form of the word or to translate phrases between an Aboriginal language and English.

"Once developed, the app will enable knowledge holders across the five nests - which include Aboriginal community elders, language teachers and students - to work collaboratively to learn and record traditional language."

It comes as language program coordinator at Dubbo Diane McNaboe reported of successes on a day where she taught a Dubbo West Public School class how to sing Gugubarra wibiyanha madhandha (that's Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree) in Wiradjuri.

An estimated 108 Indigenous languages in Australia are at risk of extinction, but Wiradjuri is not one of them.

"It is flourishing," Mrs McNaboe said.

For 20 years she had been pushing for languages to be taught, and finally she was starting to see a "big breakthrough".

Last year 49 students graduated from a new course at TAFE Western with a certificate 11 in teaching Aboriginal language.

The Wiradjuri nest is part of the NSW government's plan to revitalise Aboriginal languages.

There are five nests, based at Coffs Harbour, Dubbo, Lightning Ridge, Lismore and Wilcannia, each with as many as 30 schools.