Story books in Aboriginal English

This is a video recently put out by the Department of Education WA showing Aboriginal English being used in a story writing program in five WA primary schools.

I think it is valuable for showing Aboriginal English being validated in schools today, both as the native language of many students but also as a language of cultural expression and heritage.

More specifically, I think this is also interesting to relate to the Henderson reading from Unit 9, and to compare Aboriginal English in education to other Aboriginal languages in education. For example:

-In this video we see a community elder and also an artist involved in the program, and it seems there is agreed division of responsibilities among the various teachers as Henderson recommends (1994, p. 10).

-There also seems to be an explicit focus on language skills and linguistic awareness, with students developing literacy skills in Aboriginal English as well as students and teachers becoming more aware of the relationship between Aboriginal English and Standard Australian English. The focus and outcomes here seem to be clearer than in some of the programs discussed by Henderson (pp. 4-5).

-This program obviously has a focus on literacy, and it seems planning has gone into literacy decisions such as developing an agreed writing system for Aboriginal English while also acknowledging that the writing of Aboriginal English is “still evolving” (compare to Henderson, p. 11). Henderson briefly discusses the issue of whether literacy in Aboriginal languages is useful beyond the domain of education, and this video made me curious about if/how the program is linking to Aboriginal English literacy outside of schools.

-In contrast to the very localised traditional Aboriginal languages discussed by Henderson (p. 4), it seems that Aboriginal English is less localised and this program has been extended more broadly, involving five schools from a range of backgrounds including an urban school. The video did make me curious, though, about whether the program varies from school to school, and what decision-making has happened around how it relates to different communities.

-In contrast to either a bilingual education or LOTE framework, this video refers to EALD (English as an Additional Language or Dialect) and the (WA) Aboriginal Cultural Standards Framework (

Maybe most importantly for this program, it seems to have good administrative support, for example from the principal interviewed, which Henderson argues is so necessary for programs to be successful (p. 2). And obviously it also has enough recognition to be the subject of a nicely made Department of Education WA promotional video!


Henderson, J. (1994). Aboriginal languages in Education: A summary of the issues. In Hartman, D. & Henderson, J. (Eds.), Aboriginal languages in Education (pp. 1-13). Alice Springs, Australia: IAD Press.

by Bryan Hale

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