Two Charles Sturt University (CSU) PhD students have received prestigious national awards.
Mrs Suzanne Hopf has been advised that she has received a 2015 Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship and Ms Sarah Verdon has received a 2015 Endeavour Research Fellowship from the Australian Government.
The students from the CSU School of Teacher Education will live in Fiji while conducting research into children's speech, language, and literacy acquisition.
Their language research occurs within a complex context in Fiji where there are three official languages: English, Fijian (also known as iTaukei Language, or Vosa Vakaviti), and Hindustani. In addition, there are significant speakers of: Fiji Hindi; other non-standard indigenous Fijian languages (eg Lauan); Rotuman; immigrant languages (eg Kiribati, Chinese, Punjabi); and Fiji sign language.
Mrs Hopf said, "I am extremely grateful to receive an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship. I acknowledge Australia's commitment to supporting the speech, language, and literacy outcomes of all children in the South Pacific region.
"My research will describe the breadth of ability amongst multilingual Fijian children, and Fijian methods for supporting the speech, language, and literacy needs of all Fijians.
"Outcomes from my research will be used to support Fijians with additional speech, language, and literacy needs in a culturally relevant manner conversant with the growing body of international evidence concerning multilingual education," Mrs Hopf said.
Ms Verdon said, "I am delighted to have been selected to receive this prestigious award. My dream is to provide all children with the opportunity to develop strong skills in speech, language, communication and literacy during their early childhood years.
"The project I have designed is centred around developing a community-based program in Fiji for supporting children's communication and development, where goals are identified by their family and members of their own community to ensure that the program is culturally appropriate, motivating, and functional in supporting children's activity in their everyday lives. The program will be implemented by parents and community members with the guidance and support of my skills as a speech pathologist."
"It is hoped that through training and empowering parents and community members in strategies to support children's communication and development that the program will be sustainable and can continue to be implemented for the benefit of children in the communities into the future and long after my time there has finished. If successful I hope that this program could be implemented in other culturally diverse communities to help promote children's communication development for lifelong participation in society."
Professor Sharynne McLeod, one of Mrs Hopf's and Ms Verdon's CSU PhD supervisors, said, "I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of Suzanne and Sarah, and believe that these awards will enable them to understand the complexity of learning to speak, read and write the many languages within Fiji. Both Sarah and Suzanne will be outstanding ambassadors for Australia and Charles Sturt University as they work closely with children, parents, and teachers in Fiji to support children's speech, language, and literacy acquisition."
Professor McLeod, Mrs Hopf and Ms Verdon are associated with the CSU Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE). More information about Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarships can be found here.