From the titles of towns to streets, rivers and mountain ranges: Indigenous names surround us in Australia.

19 February 2019

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) project aims to help us all understand what these ancient names mean and where they have come from as we head towards International Mother Language Day.

This provides an opportunity to focus on linguistic and cultural diversity across the world. The day is even more significant this year as it is the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019), raising awareness of the importance of languages.

The ABC's 'This Place' project invites Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to create short videos about the significance of place names and share the stories behind them.

These videos featured on the ABC website, tell the stories of small country towns to picturesque river bends.

One video explains how Mount Warrenheip near Ballarat received its name:

“It means emu feathers… many years ago there were no trees on the mountain it was just covered in fern. To our old people it looked like emu feathers.”

Another video talks about the Dungang or Bila (River) on Birpai Country near Port Macquarie, sharing its importance for the community and how it has shaped their language and culture.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged to get onboard with the project, particularly during IY2019.

The focus of International Mother Language Day and IY2019 is to raise awareness and take further action to preserve and promote Indigenous languages around the world.

In Australia, there are only about 120 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages still spoken of the estimated original 250 languages, and approximately 90% are at risk.

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