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Australia’s First Languages

Australia’s First Languages are a wonderful and precious resource.

Australia is situated in one of the world’s linguistic hot spots. Australian languages are treasures of international significance. They are a bridge to rich and important information. When a language is lost a deep body of knowledge is lost with it.

Language is also key to Indigenous well-being in Australia. Australia will be a much better place when Indigenous language communities are strong and healthy and have the power to control their own destiny.

Language bridges the dark space between tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It is most tangible at the intersection between things. It is an interface for a people to connect with the world around them, with other people within their own language community, and with people from other language communities.

Language is also undeniably an interface within community, within an individual, and within a culture.

In the late 18th century, there were between 350 and 750 distinct Australian social groupings, and a similar number of languages. At the start of the 21st century, fewer than 150 indigenous languages remain in daily use, and all except roughly 20 are highly endangered. Of those that endure, only 10% are being learned by children and those languages are usually located in the most isolated areas.

The good news is many language groups are working to preserve their languages and languages are quietly and persistently being restored to use. Our languages live on.

Together with hundreds of people and organisations around the country. First Languages Australia is working to make sure these treasures are not lost and that they continue to live on strong and vibrany. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey.

For more information on Australian languages and local language programs refer to: http://ourlanguages.org.au/


Warra: Building teams, building resources

Together with language centres and programs around the country First Languages Australia has developed a set of guidelines for those who are setting out to create resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language projects.

Warra has been written to help families and communities with the work of maintaining and strengthening Australia’s traditional languages. It showcases a wide range of language resources, and guides users through  the steps involved in making Australian first languages resources.

Download Warra: Building teams, building resources.

'Warra' is a noun for ‘talk’ that also means ‘language’, ‘speech’, the act of talking, ‘voice’, ‘throat’ and ‘word’, in the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains. The rr in warra is a rolled r-sound. The a-sound in warra is pronounced as in Maori haka. The title Warra has been contributed by Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi and is shared by related languages, including Nukunu and Narungga.





Gambay: Australian First Languages Map

Language MapFirst 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.

Regional language centres are providing updated maps for their regions to be collated into a new digital map which will contain all languages and language families. The map will not have marked boundaries but related languages will be linked by colour.

Ongoing updates can be made as communities require.


Indigenous Languages Collections Strategy

First Languages Australia is working with Australia's major libraries and archives to implement the National Indigenous Collections Strategy (2013). Since 2010, the group has been meeting with, and coordinating meetings between, representatives from key state and national collecting agencies. The outcome of these discussions was formulated in to a strategy document which was published last year.

Exciting projects are already being implemented by a number of our major libraries and archives.



Angkety map: Digital Resources Report

First Languages Australia continues to review a range of language resources. Together with language centres around the country we have collated a report on the benefits and challenges of using digital resources in your language work.

There are so many options for digital resources. So how do you choose?

Here are six steps to work through in helping decide:

1. What do you want to do with the resource?
2. What skills do people in your group have?
3. What resources do you know about already?
4. Talk with others about what they've used.
5. When you come across a resource that suits your group's skills and objectives, check that it will allow content to be easily imported and exported. This will allow you to use the content in other ways later.
6. If you can't find anything that would be suitable, then as a last resort make something new.

Download the report and summary poster.

The title ‘Angkety map’ is from the Anmatyerr language, meaning ‘many stories’. You can pronounce it by saying ‘ang’ as in sung, ‘ke’ as in keep and ‘ty’ is a similar sound to ‘ch’ in church.

Contact Us

+61 2 4940 9144  or
1300 975 246
First Languages Australia
Postal address
PO Box 528 Newcastle 2300
Level 1/840 Hunter St
Newcastle West, NSW 2302

Learn more

  • Join First Languages Australia's network +

    You can assist in the work of First Languages Australia by becoming an active member of our network. Collectively First Read More
  • Australia’s First Languages +

    Australia’s First Languages are a wonderful and precious resource. Australia is situated in one of the world’s linguistic hot spots. Read More
  • Why maintain languages? +

    There are many reasons to maintain Australia's first languages. Chapter 3 of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Social Justice Report Read More
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