Spaces for learning: Policy and practice for Indigenous languages in a remote context

Samantha Disbray

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Bilingual and Indigenous language and culture programmes have run in remote Australian schools with significant and continuing local support. Developments such as the new national Indigenous languages curriculum offer a further opportunity to broaden and sustain Indigenous language teaching and learning activities in these schools. However, over the last two decades, increasing government attention to poor outcomes on national standardised literacy and numeracy assessments has markedly restricted the scope for Indigenous languages. This paper draws on a model of ideological and implementational spaces to discuss competing discourses in top-down and bottom-up policy. Data from an ethnographic study on education stakeholders in remote locations in Australia's Northern Territory revealed incongruities between local discourses that emphasise bi- and multilingualism, local identity and knowledge and community language maintenance and institutional discourses, which foreground a uniform model of education, with English literacy the dominant measure of educational success. The study also revealed that principals, teachers, and community members in some schools work together to develop vibrant, though often fragile, programmes. In addition to this, community members outside school systems are increasingly finding and taking up the spaces that allow innovative Indigenous language and cultural teaching and learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)317-336
    Number of pages20
    JournalLanguage and Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2016


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