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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 vibrant. We invite you to join us on this exciting journey.

 

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.

 

 

Education initiatives

Yipirinya studentsFrom training through to employment, First Languages Australia is working with policy makers and educators to help overcome the issues facing those involved with the teaching and learning of first languages.

Efforts are currently being directed to the following strategic and policy areas:

  • Curriculum development and implementation, through ongoing consultation with the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) for the Australian Curriculum, and state governments for regional developments.
  • Governments and education authorities, to establish consistent and equitable pay rates and sustainable career paths for those teaching first languages in schools.
  • Resource development, with a view to safeguarding the rights of language speakers and building capacity within communities to create resources.

First Languages Australia has also developed some engaging tools that teachers can use in cross-curricular and Indigenous language programs, including the Gambay languages map and Marrin Gamu.

In November 2016, First Languages Australia held the National Indigenous Languages Teaching and Employment forum in Adelaide. The forum brought together representatives from Language Centres, Departments of Education in each State and Territory, first languages teachers, universities and TAFEs with involvement in the training of language teachers, and other significant stakeholders.

This was the first step towards the development of a national strategy for the training and employment of Indigenous language teachers. The need for a national strategy follows the roll-out of the Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages by ACARA.

The inclusion of Indigenous languages in education is a high priority affecting all Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. First Languages Australia will continue to work with stakeholders to develop and implement a national strategy for the training and employment of Indigenous language teachers.

Following the 2016 forum, First Languages has worked with each of the states and territories to compile Nintrianganyi: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Teaching and Employment Strategy, and the companion document Global lessons: Indigneous languages and multilingualism in school programs. These resources are designed to help education departments, schools and local communities understand what is needed to sustain the provision of a local language curriculum.

Thank you for organising and facilitating the Forum. We had a great time and felt privileged to be part of the Forum. We gained an insight into the amazing work that is happening all over the country and made many new friends.

Clare Mclean, Manager Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga

Contact us

Phone  +61 2 4940 9144  or  1300 975 246
 
Visit  2 Milton St, Hamilton, NSW, 2303
Post PO Box 74, Hamilton, NSW 2303

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 our 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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