This project is exploring effective ways to invest in Aboriginal languages in order to keep them going strong. We are doing this project in partnership with Aboriginal Language Centres across the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Project Team Members: Rosemary Gundjarranbuy, Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Gawura Wanambi, Ian Gumbula, Steven Bird (photo: Michaela Spencer)

We are collecting the stories from each place about what is working, how people have been passing on their languages.

We are learning about the programs at each language centre, and finding out what makes them effective and sustainable. Through sharing our knowledge and experience, we are compiling an evidence base, and ideas about how and why language programs work, and for whom. This will show local and national organisations how they can invest in Aboriginal languages, and what kinds of returns they can expect.

The project involves a two-way collaboration with Aboriginal people across the country that will elevate local voices and build capacity for designing and evaluating programs, businesses and technologies for keeping Aboriginal languages strong. We begin by asking who are the language owners in each place, and how do we conduct this project under local sovereignty?

The project has three objectives:

Evaluation: What does ‘language’ do here? Who and what is language for? How do the language programs work, for whom, and why? How is success measured, and for whom? How can we build local capacity to evaluate programs against agreed measures of success?

Innovation: What strength-based innovation could support language vitality here? Could we deliver teaching on country? Could we embrace non-traditional languages such as Kriol? Could we design new digital technologies to deliver meaningful results for language vitality? How do we build local capacity to innovate?

Sustainability: How can we establish long-term sustainable language programs here? What opportunities exist for building the profile of local languages and generating new revenue streams? How can we introduce language into the daily experience of non-Aboriginal newcomers and residents of a place, through civic events, tourism, cultural awareness training, art centre exhibitions, and so on. What does a promising business model look like? How do we build local capacity for outward-facing services?

This is an ARC Discovery Project, awarded to the Charles Darwin University (2021-23). For updates, please follow us on social media and our blog.