Preserving our Indigenous Australian Languages

Did you know that out of the estimated 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia, 120 are still spoken and approximately 90% are endangered?

This year in the Library, we’ve started a project to add in additional spelling variations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages into our records.

Now you can more easily search & discover items in our collections that feature Indigenous Australian languages.

For example, whether your preferred spelling is “Kamilaroi”, “Gamilaraay” or Gamilaroi, you’ll now be able to find resources like Gagan = Colours, a picture book written for Gamilaraay language learners by Suellyn Tighe, a Gamilaraay woman and University of Sydney graduate.

“Our languages are inextricably linked to who we are. It encapsulates our identity and  connection to country whilst maintaining links to the past, present and future through our stories and songs” says Suellyn Tighe.

A selection of resources in our collections with AUSTLANG codes. From L to R: Gagan = colours by Suellyn Tighe (Language code: D23), Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, guwaaldanha ngiyani = We are speaking Gamilaraay and Yuwaalaraay / Accompiled by the Walgett Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay Language Program. (Language code: D23 and D27), The rainbow by Ros Moriarty (Language code: N153) and Apmwe-kenhe arne = The snake’s tree by by Margaret Heffernan (Language code: C8)

This work is also timely as the United Nations General Assembly have declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019). Australian indigenous languages are increasingly recognised as a precious global resource and IY2019 is an opportunity to raise awareness and to provide an opportunity to achieve positive change through improving the promotion and preservation of these languages.  

“The importance of our languages being spoken between generations can not be undervalued or replaced. We are fortunate to live in times when technologies can assist us to ensure that our languages are not forgotten. It does not replace human interaction, though it does provide us with the opportunity and ability to ensure our and future generations have a connection to ancestral belonging and knowledge.” says Suellyn Tighe.

This project is based on AUSTLANG, an online resource developed by Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), which provides comprehensive information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages spoken across Australia in an effort to preserve our Indigenous Australian languages and what we know about them.

This NAIDOC week, you can learn more about the languages of Australia by looking up your local language using the AUSTLANG website and searching our Library for language resources.

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