Mother Language Day

NT MLA Bess Price was told off by parliamentary speaker Kezia Purick for using Warlpiri, her first language, in parliament.
Friday, February 26, 2016

International Mother Language Day on February 21 is dedicated to celebrating, preserving and protecting languages of all peoples.

In the week leading up to the day, media reported that late last year, Northern Territory MLA Bess Price was told off by parliamentary speaker Kezia Purick for using Warlpiri, her first language, in parliament. Purick told Price “the language of the assembly is English”, although it remains to be seen where, exactly, that rule is written down.

About one-third of the NT population is Aboriginal, and Warlpiri is one of the stronger NT languages, with about 3000 people still speaking it. There is a daily ABC Radio news broadcast across the NT in Warlpiri and another in Yolngu Matha.

The news about Price being denied the right to speak her language came shortly after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's February 10 Closing the Gap speech, which once again showed the extent to which Australian governments are failing the first people of this country. Turnbull started his speech in Ngunnawal, the language of Canberra's Aboriginal people.

Australia: where the leader of a racist government can use a few words of an Aboriginal language while brushing over the ongoing impacts of colonisation and racism, and an Aboriginal MLA gets a dressing down for speaking her language, the language of her constituents.

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