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Northern Territory

Although Language and Culture is listed as a priority in the Indigenous Education Strategic Plan 2006-2009, the NT currently has no Territory-wide Indigenous Languages policy. There is little overall prioritisation of Indigenous languages at the Territory or Federal government level.

The high percentage of Indigenous students in the NT education system, and the relatively high numbers of people who still speak their language(s) as well as English (40% speak a language other than English at home), means there is more focus in the NT on Indigenous education than many other states and territories.

The Indigenous Languages and Culture in NT Schools Report 2004-2005 found that called for an increased focus on Indigenous language and culture programs in NT schools, including the redevelopment of a policy relating to the teaching of Indigenous languages and an increase in funding to support these activities. Weblink

Greg Dickson gives an overview of policy and implementation in the NT in 2010. Greg Dickson is a linguist currently lecturing at the Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics, a division of Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education, Northern Territory.

Bilingual Education

Bilingual education, in various forms, has been run by the Northern Territory Education Department since 1973, although there are significantly fewer bilingual schools now than at times in the past. In 1999 the government announced the closure of the Bilingual Program, however, due to the considerable opposition from communities, the program was not closed but underwent a name change and became known as the Two-Way Program.

In 1999 there were 21 schools with bilingual programs covering 18 languages and some of their dialects. Now there are less than half that with only 12 schools running programs in 6 different Indigenous languages.

An NT Ministerial statement of August 2005, stated that they would “put Bilingual education back on the agenda”, but little change has been evident on the ground.

Bilingual Education Programs (BEP) are supported by the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework through the Indigenous Languages and Culture (ILC) component. This section identifies outcomes for Indigenous Language Maintenance and Language Revitalisation Programs.


NT Indigenous Education Strategic Plan 2005-2009

The NT Indigenous Education Strategic Plan 2005-2009, draws from the Learning Lessons report. In the ‘Action Areas and Priorities’ section, Indigenous language and culture programs are included under the banner of High Quality Learning and Teaching.


Northern Territory Curriculum Framework

Indigenous Languages and Culture (ILC) is a component of the Northern Territory Curriculum Framework. Its inclusion in the NTCF acknowledges the important role of ILC for Indigenous students who are more than 30% of the total student population.

The ILC component of the NTCF consists of three parts

  • Culture content outcomes were developed in consultation with school/communities NT wide. It is expected that some of these outcomes will have more importance in some areas than others. The culture content has three strands – Country and Land, People and Kinship and Natural Environment.
  • Language Maintenance outcomes are intended for students whose first language is an Indigenous language and the community choose this language for teaching and learning.
  • Language Revitalisation outcomes are intended for students who are not fluent speakers of the Indigenous language chosen by the community.


The Australian Indigenous Languages Policy (1998)

The Australian Indigenous Languages Policy, endorsed by the NT board of Studies and referred to in the NT Curriculum Framework (NTCF) is currently under revision.

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