This report provides recommendations for maintaining Indigeneous languages.
Language work is close to the heart of many Indigenous Australians. The important role that Indigenous languages play in terms of a connection to culture, kinship, land and family was highlighted during the Committee’s inquiry, as was the devastation to communities that results when language is lost. Indigenous languages are the foundation upon which the capacity to learn, interact and to shape identity is built.
The Committee found there is outstanding work being undertaken across the country to maintain and revive Indigenous languages, for example:
- the Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre has developed the Miromaa computer program, a database that enables the gathering, organising, analysis and production of language materials to aid in language education and training
- the Papulu Appar-kari Language Corporation, based in Tenant Creek, supports 16 language groups in the Barkley Region through a range of activities and resources
- the Mabu Yawaru Ngan-ga language centre supports the teaching of the Yawaru language in schools in the Broome area
- the Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Language and Culture Centre runs a master-apprentice scheme for the learning of the Mirrawoong language in the Kununurra region
- the Gidarjil Corporation is producing booklets and teaching Dharambal language and culture to children in schools across central Queensland, and
- the Many Rivers Aboriginal Language Centre has developed dictionaries for about seven Indigenous languages in New South Wales.
The Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia in 1992 recognised the occupancy of the Indigenous peoples and their ongoing connection to the land.
This report builds on this connection to land and recognises and celebrates the languages of Australia’s Indigenous peoples who have lived in this land for over tens of thousands of years.
The Committee has made 30 recommendations in this report in key areas such as:
- incorporating an acknowledgement and focus of Indigenous languages into the Closing the Gap framework
- expanding the Indigenous Languages Support program and prioritising the development of language nests
- establishing a national Indigenous interpreting service and putting in place immediate measures to ensure competent interpreting services in the health and justice sectors
- supporting Constitutional change to include the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages
- resourcing bilingual school education programs for Indigenous communities where the child’s first language is an Indigenous language
- developing strategies for training Indigenous language teachers to ensure improved access to full qualifications, accreditation and career pathways
- compulsory English as an Additional Language or Dialect training for all teaching degrees and mandatory EAL/D and cultural awareness training for teacher working in Indigenous communities, and
- improving community access to language materials through a dedicated Indigenous languages archive at AIATSIS and the sharing of resources with schools and educational institutions.
The Committee received over 154 submissions and held 23 public hearings.