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Image courtesy of Australian Government,  Black Swan/After Port Jackson Painters. Anna Glynn, 2016, Ink and pencil on Arches paper, 65x102cm

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 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 preservation and promotion of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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.

The language activities incorporate education, technology, traditional and contemporary art, dance, song, music and theatre and are among the many great projects across Australia that work to revive and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Projects 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
  • 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.

You can find out more about Australia’s contributions to IY2019 here.

UNESCO has also launched a Global Call for Research Papers within the context of the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages. As the deadline for submissions has been extended to 15 March 2019, researchers and practitioners from all over the world specializing in different fields and subject areas are strongly encouraged to submit in order to contribute to the preservation, revitalization and promotion of indigenous languages at the national, regional and international level.

You can find out more about the call for papers here.