Social Justice Report 2009
Appendix 3: Indigenous Languages - A National
- 1 The importance of Australia's Indigenous languages
- 2 Objectives
- 3 Actions
- 4 Indigenous languages and literacy and numeracy
- 5 National curriculum
1 The importance of Australia's
The most recent report on Indigenous languages in Australia, the National
Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) Report 2005, found that the situation of
Australia’s Indigenous languages is grave and requires urgent action. Of
the 145 Indigenous languages still spoken in Australia, 110 are critically
endangered. All of Australia’s Indigenous languages face an uncertain
future if immediate action and care are not taken.
The Australian Government is committed to addressing the serious problem of
language loss in Indigenous communities.
It requires coordinated action among the bodies involved in support of
Indigenous languages, including government, language organisations and
educational and research institutions.
The proposed approach draws on reports and consultation over many decades,
including the NILS report and feedback through the Maintenance of Indigenous
Languages and Records Program.
- National Attention: To bring national attention to Indigenous languages
– the oldest surviving languages in the world; and the pressures they
- Critically Endangered Languages: Reinforce use of critically endangered
Indigenous languages that are being only partly spoken to help prevent decline
in use and to maintain or extend their common, everyday use as much as possible.
- Working with Languages to Close the Gap: In areas where Indigenous languages
are being spoken fully and passed on, making sure that government recognises and
works with these languages in its agenda to Close the Gap.
- Strengthening Pride in Identity and Culture: To restore the use of rarely
spoken or unspoken Indigenous languages to the extent that the current language
- Supporting Indigenous Language Programs in Schools: To support and maintain
the teaching and learning of Indigenous languages in Australian schools.
- Undertake a feasibility study for the National Indigenous Languages Centre
recommended by the NILS Report.
- Increase public recognition and appreciation of Indigenous languages by
expanding the use of these languages across public and government functions.
- Support greater coordination and assistance amongst Indigenous language
centres to maximise their impact nationally and to reach languages not currently
Critically Endangered Languages
- The Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records program, administered by
the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, is investing
$9.3 million in 2009-10 on 65 projects around Australia supporting the revival
and maintenance of Indigenous languages.
- Increase use of new technology to broaden the impact of language maintenance
and revival activities by local community Indigenous language centres.
- Pilot Early Childhood Language Nests and Mobile Language Teams to supplement
the work of language centres, especially in more remote areas that are not
within easy reach.
- Consider Tax deductible status to Indigenous languages organisations through
the Register of Cultural Organisations for maintaining and reviving Indigenous
Working with Languages to Close the Gap
- Given the centrality of language to strong Indigenous culture, and the
broader social benefits of functional and resilient families and communities,
better targeting support for Indigenous languages as part of a broader national
focus on Indigenous culture generally, will contribute to the overall well-being
of Indigenous communities.
- COAG has committed $38.6 million towards interpreting and translating
services as part of the new Remote Service Delivery sites. The Remote Service
Delivery National Partnership (RSD NP) provides for the strengthening of
interpreting and translating services in response to local needs in each of the
priority locations. In addition to the employment of interpreters in each
location, the Commonwealth is responsible for working with the States and
Northern Territory to introduce a national framework for the effective supply
and use of Indigenous language interpreters and translators. It will include
protocols for the use of interpreters and translators.
- Components of the proposed national framework include:
- development and strengthening of Indigenous interpreting services
through establishing mentor/coordinator positions, providing base salary funding
for interpreters and administrative support of interpreters;
- training and accrediting Indigenous interpreters –
development of nationally consistent curriculum material for training and
provision of training leading to accreditation and expertise in particular
- increasing supply of Indigenous interpreters through development
and establishment of a national recruitment and retention strategy, with
- increasing demand for interpreters through increased training for
government and non-government employees working in relevant locations;
- translation of government information products.
- development and strengthening of Indigenous interpreting services
- Consideration could be given to forming a National Reference Group of
Experts to advise on future directions of policy on Indigenous interpreters.
Each of the components would involve contributions from the Commonwealth and
from each of the jurisdictions.
Strengthening Pride in Identity and Culture through Language
- Support community-based Indigenous language centres by increasing links with
major national, state and territory cultural institutions to ensure that
Indigenous languages material is properly preserved and made accessible
- Through the Indigenous Contemporary Music Action Plan, support music in
Indigenous languages to increase the transmission of languages across
generations to younger speakers, utilising festivals and multimedia to
strengthen the focus on Indigenous languages and increasing broadcasting content
in Indigenous languages.
- Potential collaboration with the Songroom Project, Sing Australia,
Australian Community Business Network and Foundation for Young Australians to
work with communities where languages have been lost to promote language
- Encouraging more grass-roots collaboration between language learning
programs and Stolen Generation members and their organisations.
Supporting Indigenous Language Programs in Schools
- The Government recently commissioned the Indigenous Language Programs in
Australian Schools – A Way Forward report, which revealed that between
2006 and 2007 over 16,000 Indigenous students and 13,000 non-Indigenous students
located in 260 Australian schools were involved in Indigenous language programs,
covering over 80 different Indigenous languages.
- Significant funding for languages education is being provided to the states
and territories through the National Education Agreement for languages, allowing
jurisdictions flexibility to determine how funding is allocated. Funding can be
used to support and maintain Indigenous language programs operating in
- $56.4 million is also being provided over 2009 to 2012 through the Schools
Assistance Act 2008 to support the teaching of languages, including Australian
Indigenous languages, in non-government schools.
- Several jurisdictions are currently establishing programs to strengthen the
teaching and learning of Indigenous languages in schools, including a proposal
by New South Wales to develop national senior secondary Indigenous languages
- The Government is committed to languages education and recognises the
important role that Indigenous language learning plays in some schools,
particularly bilingual schools.
- The learning of English is also a fundamental skill that all Australians,
including Indigenous Australians, must have in order to maximise their learning
opportunities and life chances.
- All Australian governments through the Council of Australian Governments
(COAG) processes have committed to halving the gap in the reading, writing and
numeracy achievements between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students within a
- The Government is providing $56.4 million over four years to provide extra
assistance to schools to enable them to expand intensive literacy and numeracy
approaches that have been successful with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
students and provide professional development support to assist teachers to
prepare Individual Learning Plans for Indigenous students.
- The National curriculum is being developed by the Australian Curriculum,
Assessment and Reporting Authority, initially in English, mathematics, science
and history. A second phase of subject areas will be developed in languages,
geography and the arts.
- Indigenous perspectives will be written into the National Curriculum to
ensure that all young Australians have the opportunity to learn about,
acknowledge and respect the language and culture of Aboriginal people and Torres
 Australian Government Department
of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Indigenous Languages - A
National Approach. The importance of Australia's Indigenous languages. At: http://www.arts.gov.au/indigenous/languages_policy (Viewed 3 September 2009)