ACEL winner supports first language education
Dr Ailsa Purdon has won the ACEL Leadership Award, an accolade bestowed on educators influencing an educational initiative, research or policy.
The department’s Senior Manager in Bilingual Education was honoured by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders for her work in producing an NT Board of Studies language policy, in collaboration with experienced Aboriginal language educators.
Ailsa began her Territory teaching career at the Santa Teresa Mission — now Ltyentye Apurte — before entering the Department to “develop the policy for teaching Aboriginal languages and cultures”.
“I support Aboriginal students to use their first language in learning to articulate the world as they know it, or have been taught to know it,” she said.
“People need to understand the relationship between first and second language education. Research shows that students who are strong in their first language, will be strong in their second.
“For students in the remote Territory communities this means that learning English will be advanced by learning and keeping their Aboriginal language vibrant.”
The one-time employee of the Batchelor Institute, the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA — the international organisation building people’s resilience through education and training — said there is still “much to be done to advance the opportunities for Aboriginal students to learn through their own languages”.
“I have also participated in international projects in curriculum and teacher education in Africa, Tanzania, Southern Sudan and South Africa,” she said.
“In Tanzania, I worked with UNICEF to provide an education for exiles and refugees from South Africa’s black oppressive Bantu system.
“I still maintain a strong interest in working with rural South African schools, where I’d like to help progress a skills-based education that can drive economic development.
“My professional goal is to ensure high-quality education is available to all students, regardless of
The mother of two, who originally intended spending only sixth months in the Territory, is keen to document oral narratives on the strength and indomitably of the human spirit in difficult circumstances, and how education works to support this.
“I have a strong interest in current affairs,” she said. “I read a lot, I like to garden, and I love water sports, kayaking, swimming and snorkeling — interests developed in my early life in Queensland.
“I spend most of my time outside work with my family, and in the community.”