Shania Armstrong wins Karmi Sceney Aboriginal Excellence and Leadership award
A recent year 12 graduate from Centralian Senior College has been awarded a Karmi Sceney Aboriginal Excellence and Leadership award for her “unflagging work” to maintain the endangered Pertame (Southern Arrernte) language through her work with young children.
Ms Armstrong was given the award by the NT Board of Studies at a ceremony held recently at DoubleTree by Hilton, Alice Springs, recognising the work she undertook with the Mparntwe community and its elders to raise the profile of the rarely used language.
“Learning and teaching inspired me because I am passionate about keeping my language alive,” she said.
“There are around 10 to 20 fluent speakers of Pertame, who are mainly within the grandparent or great-grandparent generation. My elders are proud of what I’m doing, and how I’m trying to keep our language strong.”
“They have taught me the language and identity, and how it comes from Country, and how we can connect with the old people.”
Ms Armstrong, who is 18 years old, explained that she adopted a “master-apprentice relationship” in the Pertame Language Project, developing teaching resources to retain and revive the language.
Working with young children at Bradshaw Primary School, she translated a number of familiar songs, such as Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Silent Night, and Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and games, such as skipping, Red Rover using skin names, Duck Duck Goose, and Pertame whispers.
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education languages manager Angela Harris praised the young woman’s efforts, saying Ms Armstrong “confidently led groups of children in reading Pertame books in holiday programs.”
“She is an excellent team player and has significantly contributed to the success of the Pertame project. She goes above and beyond to share her deep knowledge.”
Ms Armstrong hopes to inspire others to learn and teach their language, saying she feels “very proud” of herself for winning the award. She plans to become a linguist and pursue her career in Alice Springs.