The International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) will shine a spotlight on the integral role language plays in maintaining the identity, sustainability, vitality and strength of Indigenous cultures.
Craig Ritchie, CEO of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and Co-Chair of the UNESCO Steering Committee for organising the year spoke at the launch and said the year will promote language revival and sustainability.
“It is about raising awareness of the crucial role language plays in people’s daily lives. It is about highlighting the damage that is done when a language is lost, and emphasising the risk of erasure that comes with every language that is endangered.”
“The year is also about driving change by mobilising coordinated global action,” Mr Ritchie said.
The state of Indigenous languages around the world, including Australia, is critical. Of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, only around 120 are still spoken and 90% of these are at risk. Without further action, many of these languages may become extinct within our lifetime, and the next 10 to 30 years will be critical in reversing this trend.
Languages have been shown to contribute to improvements in the health and wellbeing of Australians, education outcomes, environmental care and economic prosperity.
Throughout the year, we will be sharing stories, case studies, events and activities to highlight the important role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia and the work underway to revitalise and maintain them.
You can follow and engage in the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags #IY2019 and #IndigenousLanguages.