Geoffrey Pullum over at Language Log has weighed in on the debate over the role of English in Aboriginal communitues in Australia, and the return to the days of the White Australia policy and assimilation, perpetrated by the most conservative government in our history, under the subterfuge of ‘allowing aborigines to integrate into the mainstream economy’.

For some more background, I wrote about this here, Carmel O’Shannessy and Jane Simpson did so here and Kim Christen also wrote on it here.

I need not point out that Pullum is not an Australian and is therefore somewhat more insulated from calls of political bias (I assume he has no stake in whether or not the current government wins the next election). It is particularly encouraging to read such scathing denouncement of this policy from Pullum, which includes several points that I had somewhat euphemised, specifically, that we in Australia have an awful lot to be ashamed of, and need to stop procrastinating and start making up for it, beginning with an apology for the settlers’ treatment of the indigenous population up until just over 40 years ago (and even right up until today).

Brough continues that English-by-force tradition, urging that aborigines to be required to learn English so that they can be absorbed into the mainstream of Australian culture — in other words, so that aboriginal languages and cultures can die and aborigines can become just a dark-skinned under-privileged substratum of English-speaking Australian society.

Zing! I wish I’d said that!

I might point out though, since contrary ideas appear to pervade throughout all the discussion of this issue, that learning English is already compulsory for all children in every Australian school (see here). So Brough’s motivation, in my opinion, is designed to draw attention away from, and perhaps even rationalise, the government’s appalling record when it comes to adequate education funding in remote areas.

I am confident this issue won’t die anytime soon.


This from Claire:

…one of the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to education in, and the right to use one’s own language. Australia is a signatory of this Declaration.

Bob Brown has also demonstrated he is considerably more versed in the issue than Brough.