Abstract: The confluence of socio-economic, political, cultural, linguistic and educational developments in the Northern Territory (NT) over the past several decades has seen the issue of school education in Aboriginal languages become an increasingly contested aspect of Indigenous education and public policy. Some, but not all of the larger Aboriginal language speaking communities consider it vital for their children to commence their schooling with a transitional period of formal instruction in their mother tongue for the maintenance of their heritage language and the central role this plays in children’s positive cultural identification and the preservation of their traditional culture and knowledge systems. At the same time, there is evidence from Australian and International studies showing that children from Indigenous language backgrounds who commence their first full-time year of primary schooling with some proficiency in English (or other equivalent official language) are advantaged in terms of their effective participation and success in the formal education system as well as within their own communities and wider society. The desired outcomes of Indigenous language maintenance, English language acquisition, engagement with school learning, and improving the educational achievement of Indigenous students are all endorsed in current NT and national Indigenous education policy frameworks. However, there remain differing views as to when, how and at what cost these outcomes can be most effectively achieved (MCEETYA, 2006; DET 2008; Simpson et al 2009; Devlin, 2009).
Silburn, SR, Nutton, GD, McKenzie, JW, Landrigan, M, 2011, Early years English language acquisition and instructional approaches for Aboriginal students with home languages other than English: A systematic review of the Australian and international literature, Report, viewed 06 December 2023, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=5451.