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The number of kids learning Aboriginal languages is on the rise

Kinderling News & Features

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In Australia we are lucky to have a rich Aboriginal culture that underpins the foundation of our country. It is a vast and varied culture, rich in traditions, foods and languages. But how many people do you know who speak an Aboriginal Australian language?

Personally, I don't know any ... and I have Aboriginal heritage.

However, we heard some heartening news recently: figures from Victoria's Education Department show that the number of students enrolled to learn Aboriginal languages is on the up.

In 2011, there were only 23 recorded students. Last year that number had increased to 1,867 - an increase of 8,000 percent!

Reaping the rewards

When you compare these figures to the total number of students in Victoria (and Australia) it's only a small victory - but a victory nonetheless, especially when you consider all the positive implications of learning our country's native languages.

In a recent article by The Age, Victorian Aboriginal Education Association general manager, Lionel Bamblett, shared how learning an Aboriginal language was proven to help develop a child's sense of cultural identity, promoted reconciliation and promoted greater awareness and care for Australian history.

"It goes a long way to breaking down stereotypes and making sure there is good interaction between our children and non-Indigenous children," Lionel told The Age.

And this is all before you take into account the general benefits associated with learning any second language: enhanced memory and recall, improved concentration and literacy skills.

Why aren't more schools involved?

Precise data on how many students across Australia are currently learning Aboriginal languages is hard to pinpoint. It isn't part of schooling curriculum, meaning the choice to teach these languages is done on a school-to-school basis.

The number of students is currently on the rise in Victoria, after the State Government started funding the rollout of Indigenous language classes in 29 kindergarten centres. The initiative aims to provide teaching of Aboriginal languages to 5,000 three and four-year-olds.

Other states have different approaches to the teaching of Indigenous languages - and some are more effective than others.

According to the Western Australia's Koori Mail, the trend towards Aboriginal languages is encouraging - with reports of 6,400 WA students studying an Aboriginal language compared to the 4,000 students learning Mandarin.

The next step will be continuing access to these classes beyond kindergarten, allowing kids to learn their local Aboriginal language through to Year 6 (and beyond).

It's not necessarily a lack of interest holding other schools back, but more likely a lack of teachers. Finding people qualified to teach such subjects can be difficult - but something worth working towards.

Just imagine an Australia where everyone knew their local Aboriginal dialect? Sounds pretty awesome if you ask us.

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