OPINION: Australia’s road in preserving Indigenous languages

“With a multi-million dollar investment in language education, Australia has embraced the global movement to preserve Indigenous languages, which was launched last month in Paris with the UN International Decade of Indigenous Languages”, said Ambassador Amanda Gorely, the Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN Geneva.

The Albanese Labor Government is contributing more than $4 million to a pilot program that will forge alliances between Indigenous language centres and regional service providers as part of its commitment to closing the gap.

The 11 place-based collaborations, funded by the Indigenous Languages and Arts Program, will help these First Nations-led organizations use more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the health and early childhood education fields.

According to Minister for the Arts Tony Burke, the trial would consider languages as a cultural determinant of involvement with services, including mental health and wellbeing facilities, career possibilities, and early childhood education.

“On a basic level, translation doesn’t exist. Said, there isn’t a word or notion in English that corresponds to every other language. And certainly not for the languages of the First Nations, ” Minister Burke stated.

We’re ensuring that words, concepts, and expressions that tell tales dating back to the first sunrise on this continent will always live here by fighting to conserve and transmit these languages.

The pilot will aid the Government in moving closer to a variety of Closing the Gap objectives, particularly those about languages and the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Linda Burney, Australia’s minister for indigenous people, stated that the Government is dedicated to preserving and advancing First Nations languages.

Promoting the use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in health and early childhood settings “demonstrates our collective support and drive to achieve positive health and wellbeing outcomes in First Nations communities,” Minister Burney said. “Indigenous languages are essential to the identity and connection with culture for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

By maintaining cultures and expanding chances for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to study and speak their languages daily, the pilot initiative underpins our commitment to Closing the Gap.”

These collaborations co-occur as the 2022–2032 International Decade of Indigenous Languages officially launched this month at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.

The Australian Action Plan for the International Decade is being developed and co-authored by the Government in collaboration with the Directions Group for the International Decade and First Nations stakeholders.

This will be presented at the PULiiMA Indigenous Language and Technology Conference in August 2023 during the Australian start of the International Decade.

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