The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) to raise awareness of the crucial role languages play in people’s daily lives.

In 2016, the United Nations (UN) reported that 40 per cent (2,680) of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing. Most of these are Indigenous languages, affecting the way we live and placing our cultures and knowledge systems at risk.

In Australia, of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages only around 120 are still spoken. Of these approximately 90 per cent are endangered. 

IY2019 is an opportunity to continue raising awareness and taking further actions to improve the preservation and promotion of Australia’s Indigenous languages. 

Across Australia a range of programs are in place to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages including the Australian Government’s Indigenous Languages and Arts (ILA) program. The program supports:

  • Community led language programs delivered by 22 Indigenous language centres across Australia. The centres deliver essential work to preserve, revive and maintain around 165 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. 
  • The development of a National Indigenous Languages Report (NILR). 
  • A range of language projects through annual funding. 

Language activities that incorporate education, technology, traditional and contemporary art, dance, song, music and theatre are among the many great projects across Australia that work to revive and celebrate Indigenous languages. These include a new children’s opera in the Yorta Yorta and Wuthawurrung languages featuring cheeky native animals, a program to support Indigenous language workers to strengthen their research skills and improve access to important language archives across the nation, and the follow up series to the successful Bedtime Stories produced by Indigenous Community Television Limited (ICTV) that combines animation music and traditional story telling in language.

National Indigenous Languages Report  

The National Indigenous Languages Report is a collaboration with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), which aims to refocus the national conversation on the opportunities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures offer, and contribute to our understanding of and inform our support for Australia’s Indigenous languages. The report will be released during the International Year of Indigenous Languages. 

Sharing stories

Throughout IY2019 we will share stories and case studies about programs and projects across the country that aim to protect and preserve Australian languages.

Register your IY2019 event

Register your IY2019 events and activities and get a pin on the UNESCO world map. An interactive pin will appear with details about your activity. This is a great way to share your event globally and find out about other activities taking place throughout the year. Register here: https://en.iyil2019.org/events

Find out more

Contact

IY2019 [at] arts.gov.au