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Language researchers awarded ARC grant

Indigenous language researchers
(From left): Indigenous language researchers Rosemary Gundjarranbuy, Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Gawura Wanambi, Ian Gumbula and Professor Steven Bird.

A team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers at Charles Darwin University have been awarded a grant to study Aboriginal language programs in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Northern Institute Professor Steven Bird said the $366,000 Australian Research Council Discovery grant would enable the team to work with communities to construct a substantial evidence base, leading to better understandings about how Aboriginal languages are revitalised and maintained.

“We’re working to identify and explain the inner workings of language vitality, respecting diverse understandings about the nature and purpose of ‘language’ and ‘vitality’. We will consider why a program that is effective in one setting is ineffective in another,” Professor Bird said.

“We’ll be working with established language centres because they provide local Aboriginal governance, they are sites of investment and because they offer culturally safe places for Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers to come together.”

The project, “Investing in Aboriginal Languages”, comprises three broad themes: evaluation, innovation and sustainability. It will proceed through a two-way collaboration with Aboriginal people, designed to elevate local voices and build local capacity for designing and evaluating programs, technologies and businesses for keeping Aboriginal languages strong.

The Northern Institute team has an extensive track-record of innovation in Aboriginal languages and in program evaluation. It includes Brenda Muthamuluwuy, Gawura Wanambi, Ian Gumbula, Joy Bulkanhawuy, Miriam Yirrininba Dhurrkay, Professor Michael Christie, Dr Michaela Spencer, Cathy Bow, Dr Rebecca Hardwick, Yasunori Hayashi, and Professor Steven Bird.

“This project leverages a unique strength of the Northern Institute in bringing together researchers with expertise in language, technology, design, and evaluation,” Professor Bird said.

The grant is part of more than $2 million awarded to CDU in the latest Australian Research Council funding round.

The Discovery Projects scheme aims to expand the knowledge base and research capacity in Australia and support research that will provide economic, commercial, environmental, social and/or cultural benefits for Australia.