A new conference will explore some of the earliest known recordings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Canberra next month.

18 January 2019

A new conference will explore some of the earliest known recordings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Canberra next month.

The Language Keepers: Preserving Indigenous Languages conference will be held at the National Library of Australia from 9 to 10 February.

It will discuss these recordings, or 'wordlists', captured during Captain James Cook's three voyages in the Pacific, which have become important historical and language resources.

The conference will focus on the ways European travellers recorded the languages of the Pacific during their voyages and discuss the important work being done to revitalise Indigenous languages.

This conference is the first event presented by the library as part of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019).

IY2019 is a chance to raise awareness of the crucial role Indigenous languages play in the lives of people across the world and to take further action to preserve and promote Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

The United Nations estimates there are 6,700 languages spoken around the world and 40% of those are in danger of disappearing—mostly Indigenous languages. In Australia, the situation is critical. Of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, only 120 are still spoken and approximately 90% of these are at risk.

Find out more