Investing in Aboriginal Languages

Few Aboriginal language programs evaluate their activities beyond compliance with goals described in funding applications. Collecting and analysing information about a project’s implementation, activities and outcomes identifies a resource’s strengths and weaknesses… to find out if a project is really making a difference [and] contributing to broader knowledge about what approaches are effective in language maintenance and revival.

– First Languages Australia (2014, p39)

This project will develop a new evidence-based model of Aboriginal language programs, explaining how
they work and informing local and national decision-making about how to invest in Aboriginal languages.
Working from the ground up in collaboration with Aboriginal researchers, we will seek to identify and
explain the mechanisms of language revitalisation, 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. We will construct a comprehensive framework for evaluating language programs, for use by communities and by funders.

The project will be situated in communities across the Northern Territory and Western Australia, places
where there are unbroken lines of transmission down to the present generation. We will operate through
established language centres because they provide local Aboriginal governance, they host many programs, they are sites of government investment, and they provide safe places for the project team to work together. We will relate to the peak national bodies that offer funding and professional development to language centres.