A report on Australian Indigenous Language Maintenance is out – the “National Indigenous Languages Survey Report” can be downloaded here. I’ve only just downloaded it myself so I’ll save comments until I have time to read the whole thing. I notice, though, that Bardi is listed as “critically endangered” (which I of course agree with) but with 235 speakers, which if true would mean my estimates are out by a factor of ten. I cannot believe this. I’m quite willing to believe I’ve underestimated the number of Bardi speakers by a factor of two, or even three. But just by thinking of the house plans at One Arm Point and the family groups I know, there aren’t that many old people, and there was a radical break in language transmission in the 1960s when the Sunday Island mission closed. The grandparents were sent to Lombadina while the kids were sent to boarding school in Derby. The parents followed the kids. Things were already getting fragile and that was enough. Toby Metcalfe had an estimate of about 250 speakers in 1970.
The recommendations in the report are all good stuff, from language nests to legal advocacy to archiving to the setup of a National Indigenous Languages Centre.