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If you were to ask people on the street if they knew anything about Australian Indigenous languages, the response would be sadly underwhelming. Most Australians believe there is a single Aboriginal language... a far cry from the original 250 distinct groups that were once spoken in this country.
This year’s NAIDOC week theme, ‘Our Languages Matter’, will highlight the importance, resilience and richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, and the urgent need for community language preservation.
Of the 250 plus languages and dialects that were in existence at the time of first significant European settlement, as few as 120 are still spoken, in varying degrees, today.
In Queensland alone, there was once over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects.
Today around 50 of these remain in use, with less than 20 of these used as first languages.
Two of the Queensland languages - the Wik Mungkan group on Western Cape York and Kalaw Lagaw Ya in the Torres Strait – are classed as thriving, meaning there are around 500 community speakers across all ages. The remainder are considered 'endangered'.
Indigenous languages represent a very important part of the heritage of Australia, and it is imperative that everything possible is done to preserve them.
Fortunately there is a growing commitment from various areas to preserving these languages. This includes some schools in the Torres Strait and Cape York, Mitchell and the Logan region, now teaching Aboriginal language on a localised basis, as part of the state syllabus.
Churches of Christ in Queensland’s Reconciliation Action Plan commits us to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture across the organisation and note significant days and times for celebration such as NAIDOC Week.
As an organisation we will be participating in various events throughout the week. To view the full range of events in your local area, visit the NAIDOC Week events calendar.