APY Lands: English language learning and Anangu children

First posted on 9 July 2012 under APY Lands.
This article has been updated and archived.
Tags: education & English as a second language

Summary

a_appleFor most Anangu children on the APY Lands, English is a foreign language acquired at school.[i]

As of March 2012, only 6% of the teachers employed in APY schools had an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) qualification.[ii]

In April 2012, Australia’ Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Communities (Mr Brian Gleeson) highlighted the need for more ESL teachers to be based in remote Indigenous schools as a critical gap in education service provision.[iii]

The Paper Trail

Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara are the first languages of the vast majority of Anangu on the APY Lands. These are the languages Anangu speak at home and toddlers and young children acquire as their principal languages.[iv]

Mullighan Inquiry

In April 2008, the Mullighan Inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands reported that the inability of Anangu children “to speak and understand English” was a common theme in many of the instances of abuse it had examined.[v]

The report continued:

In these types of cases, an interpreter is needed frequently because the child appeared not to understand English, or be able to communicate clearly in English.

[The Education Department] must be encouraged and resourced to enable educators on the Lands to continue to teach literacy, numeracy and writing in English and language to every child. English skills may be relevant to the disclosure of abuse by young persons but are also relevant to empowerment generally of Aboriginal children.[vi]

Education and training review

In July 2008, a team of researchers from Charles Darwin University completed a review of secondary education and vocational training on the APY Lands that the South Australian Government had commissioned.[vii]

The researchers found that the “current structures of traditional public schooling on the APY Lands” were “failing” students and called for a “radical redesign” of education and training.[viii]

Anangu students, they observed:

receive only an approximation of mainstream schooling, which falls well short of the standard needed to equip them to take up the types of jobs they are expected to fulfil.[ix]

The researchers called for “specialist tutors” to be provided “for one-on-one instruction with those students experiencing difficulty in keeping up with their peer group”. The researchers noted that such tutors would need to be “teacher-trained” and have “skills in English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL)” and other key areas.[x]

Community profiles and baseline data

In 2009, the Federal Government funded the development of “baseline community profiles” for seven APY communities. The profiles were completed in mid 2010.[xi]

Versions of the following statement appeared in six of the seven profiles:

formal participation in ESL … programs appear to have little relevancy. All school principals interviewed, and most of the TAFE Educators, reiterated throughout their interviews that all of their students needed one-on-one assistance in numeracy and literacy because, for all of them, English was their second language.[xii]

Similar points were emphasised in other community-specific observations:

“Teacher training support is not funded adequately for existing staff especially in [ESL] skills … The majority of students at Iwantja are Anangu and their first language is Pitjantjatjara or Yankunytjatjara. Most students are only introduced to English when they start school. So, virtually all students have English as a second language.”
(Iwantja profile)[xiii]

“Additional staff training was noted as being urgently required in the English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) area.”
(Amata profile)[xiv]

“If the children were in Adelaide with these difficulties they would have a 1:8 [teacher-student] ratio; whereas in Pipalyatjara school of 57 pupils there is no specific provision for ESL tuition.”
(Pipalyatjara profile)[xv]

“Other barriers to optimal outcomes in the school … raised by the school staff included the need for more experienced staff, especially staff with ESL … training.”
(Iwantja profile)[xvi]

In April 2012, almost two years after the seven profiles were completed, Australia’s Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services (Mr Brian Gleeson) expressed concern that the baseline data gathered in these and similar documents was “not being used as an evidence base to inform local planning in the way intended.”[xvii]

In the same report, Mr Gleeson also foreshadowed his intention to publish information on “the services issues and gaps” that the baseline mapping process had recorded and which his own “preliminary analysis” had identified as “systemic issues,” including the critical need for more English-as-a-Second-Language teachers to be based in remote Indigenous schools.[xviii]

Departmental advice

In mid 2011, the South Australian Government employed 74.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers across the nine schools operating on the APY Lands.

Seven of these teachers (9.4%) held formal English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) qualifications.[xix]

On 11 May 2012, the Paper Tracker asked the Department for Education and Child Development how many teachers employed on the APY Lands had completed a formal English-as-a-Second-Language qualification (as of March 2012).[xx]

In a reply dated 4 June 2012, the Department advised:

The percentage of teacher employees with a qualification with an ESL field of study is 6%. Accuracy of this data is dependent on completeness of the qualification record for each employee.[xxi]

This article has been archived and will no longer be updated. It will, however, remain accessible online as a source of background information for anyone wishing to undertake further research on this issue. Information included in the article was current at the time it was archived. Keep in mind, however, that Ministerial changes and names of departments, among other things, may have since changed.


[i] Langford Consulting. 2009, Indulkana BCP report, p12.

[ii] O’Loughlin, P (DECD). 4 June 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald, Uniting Communities.

[iii] Gleeson, B. 27 April 2012. Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Six Monthly Report October 2011 – March 2012, p3.

[iv] At the time of the 2011 census, close to 90% of people on the APY Lands who identified as ‘Indigenous’ spoke either Pitjantjatjara (82.8%) or Yankunytjatjara (6.7%) at home (Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2012. “2011 Census QuickStats: Anangu Pitjantjatjara Code IARE402001.Available at: http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2011/quickstat/IARE402001 Accessed: 1 July 2012.

[v] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p201.

[vi] Mullighan, E. April 2008, Children on Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands: Commission of Inquiry – a report into sexual abuse, p201.

[vii] Lea, T. et al July 2008, Excellence or Exit: Ensuring Anangu Futures through Education, Charles Darwin University, cover and p9.

[viii] Lea, T. et al July 2008, Excellence or Exit: Ensuring Anangu Futures through Education, Charles Darwin University, p12.

[ix] Lea, T. et al July 2008, Excellence or Exit: Ensuring Anangu Futures through Education, Charles Darwin University, p20..

[x] Lea, T. et al July 2008, Excellence or Exit: Ensuring Anangu Futures through Education, Charles Darwin University, p20..

[xi] See: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, 18 May 2009, “Request for Tender for the development of a Baseline Community Profile for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands,” Tender documentation. Also: Cluse, K (APY ROC/FaHCSIA). 28 November 2010. Email to J. Nicholls.

[xii] See, for example: Langford Consulting. 2009, Indulkana BCP report, p57.

[xiii] See: Langford Consulting. 2009, Indulkana BCP report, p57.

[xiv] See: Langford Consulting. 2009, Amata BCP report, p56-57.

[xv] See: Langford Consulting. 2009, Pipalyatjara BCP report, pviii.

[xvi] See: Langford Consulting. 2009, Indulkana BCP report, p56.

[xvii] Gleeson, B. 27 April 2012. Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Six Monthly Report October 2011 – March 2012, p10.

[xviii] Gleeson, B. 27 April 2012. Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services Six Monthly Report October 2011 – March 2012, p3.

[xix] Bartley, K (DECD). 3 November 2011. Memo of information provided to the Parliament of South Australia’s Budget and Finance Committee in response to a question without notice on 8 August 2011.

[xx] McDonald, P. 11 May 2012. Letter to K. Bartley (DECD).

[xxi] O’Loughlin, P (DECD). 4 June 2012. Letter to Rev. P. McDonald, Uniting Communities.

The Paper Tracker works hard to provide accurate and up-to-date information. We will correct any inaccurate information as soon as it is brought to our attention. Please contact us if you have additional information or can provide us with an update.