Darwin prison Indigenous languages program

Wadeye school

Speakers of Indigenous languages are tragically over-represented in Australian prisons, including Darwin prison where almost 90% of inmates are Indigenous and around 50% speak an Indigenous language.

Northern Territory Corrections, in consultation with RUIL member John Mansfield, is developing a plan to offer inmates of Darwin prison activity programs in their own languages. In 2019/2020 pilot sessions with Tiwi inmates were run by Tiwi elder Pirrwayingi Puruntatameri. In February 2020 Murrinhpatha elder Nguluyguy Margaret Perdjert, alongside experienced language workers Nguvudirr Jeremiah Tunmuck and John Mansfield, ran a pilot program of eight sessions with Murrinhpatha inmates. These sessions focused on use of digital tablets to create illustrated language materials and developing participants’ literacy in their first language.

Northern Territory Corrections are currently evaluating the pilot sessions with a view to rolling out a more extensive trial program for Indigenous NT prisoners.

This is a community outreach project supported by RUIL and the Northern Institute at Charles Darwin University.

Chief Investigator: Dr John Mansfield.