This is an interview aired on ABC Far North Queensland earlier this month (published 8th May 2012 on their website), with the Chairperson of the North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Language Corporation (NQRALC), Troy Wyles-Whelan. NQRALC work with the retrieval, maintenance and protection of Aboriginal language within north QLD. This body covers a region which has a total of 63 indigenous languages spoken within it. Of those languages, only one language has more than 20 fluent speakers, and one language near Mount Isa has only one speaker remaining. Troy says that perhaps 80% of Aboriginal languages have very few speakers still living, most of whom are very old. This desolate situation is mainly due to the laws that prohibited or discouraged indigenous people from speaking their language.
Troy stressed the value of Aboriginal languages, and the importance of children learning their own language in schools. It is important to their identity, community, pride, health and respect. He even alluded that with a stronger sense of pride in their indigenous identity, youth are less likely to be incarcerated.
Funding is a huge issue. The NQRALC needs the physical resources to get out to the remote communities to record and retrieve their languages.
I find it interesting that even in 2012, many Australians are still ignorant of the language issues faced by Indigenous Australians, and need to be told such basic information such as this simply to raise public awareness.
Elyse Stephens, LING366