103. Meaning of the word Parole

For the full transcript click here.

The conversation for this podcast story came from a phone call from a Yolngu mother whose son was being offered parole but had no understanding of what ‘parole’ meant. Our Yolngu co-producer, Dianne Gondarra, checked around with all her contacts and found that nobody within the community understood what parole meant either. So we researched the word in English and Yolngu Matha and produced this program to help alleviate the confusion.

Without a clear understanding of the meaning of the word ‘parole’, it’s impossible for Yolngu parolees to stick to their parole conditions. This is why so many Yolngu end up being penalised and put back in jail. All because they do not understand what the word parole and its associated terms mean.

This is a hard subject for English first language speakers to understand. But imagine if Balanda (mainstream western Australians) were being jailed under the Yolngu system of law. And they had to work through and understand all the Yolngu Matha academic terms around the Madayin system of law. This confusion around English legal terms is why so many Yolngu end up in jail, completely confused many times as to why they are there.

In this podcast series, we will investigate a number of other English words that also create problems for the Yolngu Matha speaking prisoners. Like understanding what is meant by an ‘unexpired sentence’. The English word ‘sentence’ has many different meanings in different contexts. And the word ‘unexpired’ is one that almost no Yolngu person would have any idea what it means. This problem is added to because Yolngu Matha is a suffixing language and in most cases prefix words are understood without the prefix, leading to a complete misunderstanding because ‘unexpired’ to them simply becomes ‘expired’.

We then discuss ‘parolee’ and ‘parole officer’, where the meaning of parole changes from a verb to a noun. To complicate this matter these officers are sometimes called ‘probation officers’ too, and you can be ‘out on probation’.

To give the complete example of what parole is about we also had to talk about ‘parole orders’ and how they fit into the whole picture. Again, the English word ‘order’ causes confusion because you can order food and now you can also have a parole order.

First Nation People like Yolngu are English fifth or sixth language speakers. If they are to be ready for meaningful employment throughout their lifetime, without the stop-start complications caused by confusion around English legal terms, Yolngu people need access to podcasts like this. These discussions help them navigate the minefield of concept language in the English speaking world.

For the full transcript click here.


There are 4 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below –

  • Story No. 1 Meaning of the word Parole                    00:00
  • Story No. 2 Parole and an unexpired sentence        08:28
  • Story No. 3 Probation and parole officers                 18:45
  • Story No. 4 Understanding parole orders                  29:35