I. Kral & R.G. (Jerry) Schwab,
Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, ANU
The development of communicative competence continues beyond childhood (Romaine 1984). Register, cultural patterning and adept handling of narrative and conversational competence are features of language development in older childhood and adolescence (Hoyle and Adger 1998). Only during this later stage do speakers begin to encounter to a substantial degree the styles, registers, and genres of discourse that advance negotiation, exchange, knowledge acquisition, and skill build-up. These syntactic and discourse structures, provide young speakers with the linguistic and conceptual tools to move toward mature adult roles as workers, parents and community leaders (pers. comm. Shirley Brice Heath ANU, 2008). School is an important site for the acquisition of language, and literacy. However, in remote Indigenous contexts where attendance and retention rates are low, schooling alone cannot provide the highly complex and intertextual structures of discourse required for later language and literacy development and mature adult communication needs. This dilemma is amplified in locations where teaching is in English as a second language and many adolescents are effectively bypassing critical institutional learning moments, and living in a world where reading and writing are not integral to everyday communication, recreation and livelihood.