Indigenous imperatives in navigating language and culture

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Malcolm, I. (2002). Indigenous imperatives in navigating language and culture. In Proceedings of the Ninth International Literacy & education research Network Conference on Learning. Beijing, China.


Indigenous Australians at school have tended to respond to mainstream education with patterns of reluctant attendance, uneven attainment and early attrition. Despite a clearly expressed Indigenous aspiration for competent use of Standard English as an educational outcome, educational policies which have ignored Indigenous cultural and linguistic patterns have often met with a hostile or an indifferent response from Indigenous people. Bidialectal educational approaches developed in association with Indigenous consultants (Malcolm 1995; Malcolm et al 1999) use the home language (Aboriginal English) and its associated cultural and conceptual patterns as a means of developing bidialectal rather than only standard English competence. Some language-and-culture based principles which have emerged from this work are proposed here as “imperatives” which must be recognized if comprehensive literacy outcomes for Indigenous students are to be achieved.

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