Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are facing critical risks contributing to the loss of knowledge and use. Many communities are racing against time to record and preserve languages with very few, or in some cases no, speakers left to pass on the knowledge.

Such efforts require specialist attention, particularly when reviving and reconstructing a language. Languages that have reached a point of strength also require sustained support to ensure they are passed on through the generations. The UNESCO Action Plan gives examples of measures seen as necessary for all nations to consider in revitalising and maintaining languages, including support for materials that strengthen language use, a wider range of services, using technology to improve everyday use of language, and encouraging best practice in the use of languages.

The Australian Government has in place strong networks and frameworks to support these international goals. These include initiatives and programs administered through AIATSIS, the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Strategy. They also include funding for Indigenous Languages Centres and projects through the Indigenous Languages and Arts (ILA) grant program, and projects being undertaken by, or funded by, government agencies around the country. Languages cannot be separated from their complex and interrelated relationships to culture, connection to country, community and family. Therefore, broader government support for the social and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is also considered as part of these networks and frameworks supporting languages.

During the international year and beyond 2019 we will continue to provide support and services for activities including archives, recordings, online portals, dictionaries, teaching materials, mapping songs, creating interactive games and interpreter services. We will also continue targeted support through the ILA program for innovative digital projects that protect, preserve and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. We will undertake continuous reviews and monitoring of dedicated funding programs, such as ILA and IAS, to reflect the investment and support needs of communities working to revive and maintain their languages. We will also continue to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasters through the IAS to continue delivering locally relevant and culturally appropriate programming, often in language.

Under the UNESCO framework for the IY2019 the Australian Government will aim to: