The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This gives us all an opportunity to raise awareness about the multiple Indigenous languages existing around the world and the importance of preserving Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. As stated on the IY2019 website, “Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person's unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory.”
Let’s delve deep into what this means for us and how we can help create awareness about the many Indigenous languages that exist in our very own country.
The United Nations reported back in 2016 that of the estimated 6,700 languages that are spoken around the world, 2,680 of those are in danger of disappearing.
In Australia as of now, only 120 of the 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are still spoken. We have compiled a list of valuable resources that will help you contribute to IT2019 and gain a better understanding about Indigenous languages as a whole:
What can you do?
There are several resources that you can use to become more familiar with the stories of Languages, and the never-ending fight to preserve and protect First languages in Australia. Linguists and community members around the country are working tirelessly to record languages and provide resources and programs to encourage language learning. Why not get familiar with their work, and support the survival of endangered languages, by engaging with the resources below?
Events around Australia you can attend:
Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Forum- Cairns: The Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee and the Pama Language Centre are pleased to be hosting the 2019 Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Forum to be held at the Novotel in Cairns on the 7th and 8th of May. The forum is being funded by the Indigenous Languages and Arts program and the Queensland Government as an opportunity for language workers across Queensland to come together, share our successes and learn from each other–to grow and inspire activities toward a future in which all Queensland language are spoken strongly and proudly.
Yirrambol Festival – Melbourne: Melbourne’s premier First Nations arts festival presenting the continuous cultures and diverse contemporary practice of First Nations artists from around the world. Supported by: Australia Council for the Arts.
Barunga music festival- NT: Barunga Music Program is an integral part of the Barunga Festival, highlighting a range of Indigenous musicians. Supported by: Australia Council for the Arts
Desert Festival Song, Alice Springs: A showcase of multi-cultural music traditions including songs and hymns in the indigenous languages of Western Arrarnta and Pitjantjatjara.
Darug language and culture workshop- Guildford
Cairns Indigenous Art fair- Cairns: An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance piece that sees a combination of choir song, traditional language and storytelling.
CALL Collection - an archive of Australia's First Nation language materials.
AIATSIS Language Map - an interactive language map showing not only how many Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages exist, but where they are spoken.
Filling a Void: history of the word 'Guringai' - A report from the Aboriginal Heritage Office website that focuses on the origin, validity and use of 'Guringai'.
Gambay First Languages Map- First Languages Australia is working with regional language centres nationally to develop a map of Australian languages that reflects the names and groupings favoured by community. Use the Gambay map to find out about the language where you live and learn a few words in your local language.
Watch ABC’s Mother Tongue series- it shares stories of First Languages from Australia.
The state of Australia’s Indigenous languages- How we can revive them again?
New coins launched- to commemorate the International year of Indigenous Languages
Embracing and better understanding language is one way we can help maintain First languages and support First Nations people.
What are your thoughts about the status of Indigenous languages in Australia? We would love to know how you pledge to save them or if you are currently working on a project to do so.