When Iris Menzies, a recent linguistic graduate from the University of Sydney, attended the PULiiMA conference in Darwin last year, she was delighted to find children’s books written in Kriol, and well-known children’s books with Indigenous language translations.
Iris got talking to the team at the Indigenous Literacy Foundation booth and they offered her a sample of books to take back to the community she works in.
“I thought it was really cool!” said Iris.
Iris knows how important Indigenous language is to communities. For the last 6 months she has held the position as the Language Services Facilitator at the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre in Kununurra, WA.
“People love to read books in their own language,” said Iris. “Traditional and first languages aren’t always seen as important, and often people incorrectly see Kriol as broken English. This lack of recognition is really damaging to kids who don’t see the way they talk reflected in their educational context. When it is in print, it validates the language and gives it prestige, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” she said.
Iris explains that many Indigenous people are multilingual and that historically this is the norm around the world. A book written in English with stickers on each page in a community’s first language helps children and families learn to read and maintain their language.
“There is a lot of documented research to show how important it is to learn to read in your first language,” Iris said, “It has positive impacts for wellbeing, and for literacy levels in English too.”
Since learning about the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Iris has become a regular donor.
“The goal to increase literacy is an important one,” says Iris, “In Kununurra, I’ve been lucky enough to see first-hand the value of Indigenous languages. People take pride in their own language and this impacts on people’s cultural information and wellbeing. Literacy, like revitalisation, is not about abstract language – it is about people!”
We extend a heartfelt thank you to Iris for your support and shout out to the Kununurra mob – “Keep your language strong!”