“Our language is like a pearl inside a shell. The shell is like the people that carry the language. If our language is taken away, then that would be like a pearl that is gone. We would be like an empty oyster shell.” Yurranydjil Dhurrkay, Galiwin’ku, North East Arnhem Land.
Friends of Bilingual Learning are a network of interested citizens who recognise the importance of language for learning, human development, identity and wellbeing. FOBL members are a diverse group of people brought together to support the development of the NT as a multilingual society which acknowledges the place of communication through Indigenous languages and English. The ‘Bilingual Learning’ within our name refers to the use of two or more languages used in ongoing learning throughout life. These settings can be for children in schools and for adults in a range of contexts.
FOBL formed in June 2008 as a response to initial members concerns that the above ideals were not being taken seriously in the Northern Territory (NT). The results of this can be seen in the everyday struggle that Indigenous people in the Northern Territory experience within our community evidenced by disproportionate Indigenous representation within the judicial, welfare and health systems and the constant negative media about poor educational attendance and outcomes.
If there is a single reason why such injustice exists it may be found in communication issues that arise from inadequate support for Indigenous languages within the public sector – educational institutions, the legal system and health services.