Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Oral language proficiency and phonological skills underpin children’s literacy development. In Australian schools, literacy is based on Standard Australian English (SAE). Children who speak an Indigenous language or a different dialect of English are expected to have the same understanding of SAE as children who have been taught to speak or understand SAE from birth. For some Indigenous children, school may be the place where they first hear some SAE sounds. As indicated by a substantial body of research, oral language forms the basis of early literacy; Indigenous children, if they have no specific support in learning SAE as a second dialect, are likely to fall behind academically, and often remain behind their peers throughout their years of schooling.

Both my experience as an educator and the relevant literature suggest that SAE consonants are an area of oral literacy that can be particularly challenging for children. There are considerable differences between the articulation of consonants in Indigenous dialects of English and SAE, particularly with obstruents. If Indigenous children are to bridge the differences between their Indigenous dialects of English and SAE, they need targeted assistance in the pronunciation of SAE consonants in their literacy lessons.

The purpose of this study, then, was to develop guiding principles for a consonant phonological program for five- to seven-year-old Indigenous children that could affect their literacy learning. Design-based research (DBR) was chosen as an approach to inform the design of a consonant phonological program that would best support Indigenous learners by incorporating practitioner knowledge and community support. DBR provides the means to systematically test and refine the program and provide principles that could be used in the development and implementation of similar programs in the future.

FoR codes (2008)

200401 Applied Linguistics and Educational Linguistics, 200408 Linguistic Structures (incl. Grammar, Phonology, Lexicon, Semantics), 2004 LINGUISTICS, 1302 CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.