“Language gives us a sense of identity and, for many Indigenous peoples globally, storytelling is the way our culture and history is shared through the generations. With the loss of language therefore comes the loss of identity.
The importance of First Language, particularly to early childhood development, has been recognised by the United Nations and it’s especially exciting for us to win this award during the International Year of Indigenous Languages ‘
Professor Tom Calma AO, Co-Chair of ALNF and Reconciliation Australia
“ Language is more than a mere tool for communicating with other people. People simply don’t speak words. We connect, teach and exchange ideals. Indigenous languages allows each of us to express our unique perspective on the world we live in and with the people in which we share it with.
Unique words and expressions within language, even absence of, or taboos on certain words, provide invaluable insight to the culture and values each of us speaks.
Our Language empowers us.
It is a fundamental right to speak your own language, and to use it to express your identity, your culture and your history. For Indigenous people it lets us communicate our philosophies and our rights as they are within us, our choices and have been for our people for milleniums “
Australian technology innovation shone on the world stage today when the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) won the MIT Solve Challenge for ‘Early Childhood Development’ in New York.
The Australian charity was selected out of 1400 entrants, and was one of 61 finalists for the global accolade which recognises innovative technology solutions for global challenges.
ALNF was awarded for its ground-breaking ‘Living First Language Platform’ (LFLP), a highly accessible, cross- platform multi-media app that preserves and revitalises Indigenous First Languages, empowering speakers with best-practice literacy tools to learn to read, write and teach in their mother tongue
The award recognises ALNF’s innovative use of technology to help solve the literacy challenges facing Indigenous communities and will see MIT Solve deploy its global community of private, public, and non-profit leaders to help ALNF build the partnerships needed to scale their work nationally and internationally.
ALNF seeks to address the lack of linguistically inclusive early education, which is recognised by communities and leaders as a major factor in low levels of attainment and engagement of Indigenous children and families in early education.
In remote areas of Australia, around two-thirds of Indigenous children speak some words of an Indigenous language, and in some communities, almost 100% of children encounter English for the first time when they enter school. Globally, around 221 million children do not have access to education in their First Language.
See a demonstration of the ‘Living First Language Platform’ in action here
Importantly, the platform also aims to stem the rapid and ever-increasing loss of Indigenous languages. There are more than 4,000 Indigenous languages in the world and devastatingly, one is lost approximately every 14 days.
The support from the MIT Solve network will help us to continue to develop and grow the platform’s capability, ensuring a robust Early Childhood Development resource. Additional funding received from investors and donors will go directly to ALNF to enable us to work with more communities in Australia to record our own Indigenous languages and improve literacy levels.”
ALNF is currently working with five Australian Indigenous language groups on the platform, in some instances recording ancient languages for the first time.
One of these languages, Erub Mer from the Torres Strait, has only a few fluent speakers remaining. Thanks to the Living First Language Platform, more than 2000 Erub Mer words have been added to ALNF’s teaching tool by an enthusiastic community, passionate about passing their language on to the next generation.
Photos from Erub Mer workshop Kenny Bedford
The six global challenges in the MIT Solve Challenge were determined via consultation with more than 500 leaders and experts and workshops with communities around the world. ALNF was among 61 global finalists invited to New York city to pitch their technology solution to the MIT Solve Challenge Leadership Group — a judging panel of cross-sector leaders and MIT faculty —during U.N. General Assembly Week.
In addition to today’s MIT Solve win, the ‘Living First Language Platform also won in its category of ‘Innovation in Connecting People’ at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Innovation Awards in Austin, Texas earlier this year.
For more information or to donate go to alnf.org/program/firstlanguages/.
There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.
The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.
To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here
The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here: