Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics


Pertame Apprentice, Shania Armstrong Awarded Alice Springs NAIDOC Youth of the Year

Shania Armstrong is an 18-year-old high school graduate, and a committed and passionate leader within her community with a bright future ahead of her. Shania is a Pertame Southern Arrernte girl living on Central Arrernte country in Alice Springs.  

Shania is a passionate language activist. She completed a VET Applied Languages Certificate II and III in Arrernte through her high school, earning the highest grade in her cohort and receiving the NT Board of Studies Karmi Sceney Aboriginal Excellence and Leadership Award for her outstanding results. Shania also undertook a school-based apprenticeship throughout her year 12 studies with the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. Shania has been learning and teaching her endangered Indigenous language, Pertame (Southern Arrernte) as part of the only active Master-Apprentice Program (MAP) in Australia. MAPs require apprentices (young adult language learners) to be entirely immersed in language with a fluent elder speaker (the master) for 10-20 hours per week to rapidly create new fluent speakers of endangered Indigenous languages. This innovative methodology was developed by Native American communities in the US and has since been adapted by First Nations people around the world.

Despite the challenges that 2020 presented, Shania spent a total of 280 hours immersed in Pertame through the Pertame MAP, completed her school-based apprenticeship and graduated year 12. Shania is now a conversational Pertame speaker, and is continuing the Pertame MAP into 2021 to blossom into a completely fluent speaker and language teacher.
Shania is a courageous young person, who constantly overcomes her fears to share Pertame with the world. When Shania graduated year 12, she delivered the Acknowledgement to Country in Pertame in front of the entire audience. Shania also received the Girls Academy “Aspiring Role Model” award for her efforts teaching Pertame to children and her leadership within Girls Academy. Shania was asked to provide the voice-over in Pertame for ABC radio’s NAIDOC program, which can be viewed here:

Shania was an ambassador of a Headspace campaign that educated Arrernte speakers about mental health awareness in their first language. Shania created and translated the posters’ Arrernte mental health messages.  

Shania is a leader within the Pertame community. She was one of the main organisers, teachers and facilitators for two week-long Pertame school holiday programs, that teach Pertame children language through song, art, craft, games, videos and other activities. These programs also provide healthy lunches and a safe, family-oriented outlets for Pertame children to spend their school holidays.  Shania also develops lessons and teaches Pertame children language at Bradshaw Primary every week, and is a main teacher for the weekly Pertame evening community classes. 

Shania is a dedicated family member and role model, who is always teaching and looking after children. Shania is constantly sharing her language knowledge with her immediate family, teaching her nieces, nephews, sisters and even her father Pertame at home every day. She teaches them the Pertame songs, animals and introductions in language. 

Shania is an aspiring linguist and language worker. Shania has developed her skills to record and film elders and use linguistic software to edit audio and video to produce language learning resources for the Pertame community. Here is an example of a Pertame Language Resource Shania produced working with elders to record, edit, photograph and publish into a short video for the Pertame Project’s Youtube channel:

Articles about Shania:

Testimonials for Shania:

Christobel Swan, Pertame elder fluent speaker and master in the Pertame language program 

She is learning a lot of Pertame. It is so good to have a young person be so keen to learn her grandfather’s language. He was a really fluent Pertame speaker who passed away when Shania’s father was 14 years old. I am happy she can learn with me, her great grandmother, to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. A lot of other young people aren’t as interested to learn their language, but Shania is really focused on her goal and won’t be distracted by all the other things going on in life.  

Reference from Susan Moore, Principal of Alice Springs Language Centre

While at school Shania Armstrong inspired and led groups of Arrernte students who were disengaged during the COVID scare, to re-engage in the Stage 2 Australian Languages course. Shania stayed focused on learning Arrernte and Pertame language all the way through middle school and senior secondary school and has shown excellence in the academic achievement by achieving a merit certificate for getting an A+ grade in Australian Languages.