compulsory in all schools on the Adelaide plains. Kaurna? You have never heard of it?
I had but I suspect that most people have not. It is, supposedly, the language of the people who lived here before white settlement.
I say "supposedly" with good reason. It would not have been the language of all the indigenous tribes on the Adelaide plains. It would have been one of many related languages. Along with Pitjatjantjara it may also be one of the best preserved.
I also say "may" with good reason. The Kaurna language before white settlement no longer exists. We do not know what it was like.
For indigenous Australians the Australian landscape required a particular vocabulary. There are also many words for things like family relationships. A meeting between members of two tribes could require a long conversation about relationships in order to find common relationships and precisely what they were. There was no loose usage of the word "cousin" among them. It is all highly sophisticated.
But indigenous languages also lacked the concepts and the vocabulary to deal with white settlement. This had nothing to do with being "primitive" or "stupid". They simply did not need these things. Colour is described differently. Mathematical concepts were rare. They did not need to count. (There were words for "one" and "two" and the idea of "three" or "four" was formed by combinations of these words but the idea of counting from one to ten was foreign to them.) There was no written language.
In order to describe and discuss what they saw when the first settlers arrived they had to either create new words, take on the words of the settlers or gradually lose their language in favour of a new one. All three things happened over time. If time travel occurred and a speaker of the language as it was before white settlement arrived he or she would find there was nobody with whom they could easily hold a conversation. It would be rather like us trying to hold a conversation with a member of a British tribe from say the first or second century.
So why should schools teach Kaurna? There are claims that indigenous students do better and are more motivated when they know something about "their" language. Perhaps. I think it is more likely that the students involved do better and are more motivated because they are getting a great deal of time and individual attention. They are being told they are "important", Learning Kaurna has been only a small part of an overall experiment in education. The results would not be translated to the rest of the population.
It is not like the revival of Welsh and, now, Gaelic or Breton. It is not like ensuring Tibetan survives in order to preserve religious and medical knowledge which is in daily use. Kaurna is not in daily use as a primary language. It would need massive changes in order to be able to be used in the 21st C.
We have lost most aboriginal languages and we will lose more. Only a handful have any chance of survival. Every time we lose a language we lose a way of thinking. We lose unique words and ideas. Of the languages which remain we will also lose ways of thinking. Languages have to change to remain alive. We cannot "preserve Kaurna". Language does not work like that.