Owning language: Copyright, ethics and the development of aboriginal language programs

Year: 2001

Author: Lowe, Kevin

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This document should be seen as part of an on going discussion of issues raised the development and implementation of Aboriginal language programs in New South Wales schools. This discussion is rooted in the considerable concerns raised by many Aboriginal communities through peak Aboriginal community bodies such as the New South Wales AECG Inc, FATSIL and ATSIC, over the ownership and copyright of language materials. This matter has also been acknowledged by the Department of Education and Employment (DETE) in South Australia, with the joint working party, who have developed a draft protocols document to assist the consultation processes between schools and Aboriginal communities. The concerns raised by this issue are pervasive and they must be acknowledged and addressed by all key institutions if successful partnerships are to be forged as schools and communities seek to develop language programs. The development of language programs in schools cannot be achieved without the support and assistance of Aboriginal communities. Communities belonging to particular language nations need to be acknowledged by educational authorities as being the custodians of their language and at a minimum must be considered as being partners in the development of programs or published materials that have been drawn from their knowledge. While the focus of this paper is the interaction between schools and communities, and how community concerns are addressed, this debate must also be seen as part of a much larger discussion around the ownership and controls that Aboriginal communities seek to reassert over their language and culture.