Issue 11
Monday, 17 July 2017
Charles Darwin University
E-news
(From left) Mrs Nancy Devlin, Dr Brian Devlin, Professor Tom Calma AO and Dr Samantha Disbray at the “History of Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory” book launch
(From left) Mrs Nancy Devlin, Dr Brian Devlin, Professor Tom Calma AO and Dr Samantha Disbray at the “History of Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory” book launch

Grassroots view on bilingual education

By Ellie Turner

The first detailed history of the innovative Northern Territory Bilingual Education Program, which began in remote schools more than 40 years ago, has been launched as part of NAIDOC Week.

The book, titled “History of Bilingual Education in the Northern Territory”, draws together the grassroots perspectives of education professionals and researchers, archival materials and policy analysis.

Dr Brian Devlin, who is a CDU Professorial Fellow and the lead editor, said the book honoured the work of staff in bilingual programs at 29 remote schools. 

Since 1973, English and 19 Aboriginal languages have been used at various times as languages of instruction in these schools.

“The book offers valuable insights into the policy settings that have helped and hindered bilingual education and therefore it has implications for minority language rights in Australia and elsewhere,” Dr Devlin said.

Dr Devlin and Nancy Devlin, a Fellow of CDU’s School of Education and a former lecturer, said they were spurred on to tackle this project after two respected NT educators, including a fierce advocate for the bilingual program on Bathurst Island, lost their lives in a car accident in 2012.

They approached Australian National University research fellow Dr Samantha Disbray, who has researched bilingual education in Aboriginal schools in Central Australia, and the trio collaborated to gather stories and case studies from more than 20 contributors.

Social justice campaigner and University of Canberra Chancellor Professor Tom Calma AO officially launched the book at Casuarina campus.