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Preserving Aboriginal languages

The preservation of the original languages of Queensland is the preservation of ancient cultural treasure—not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, not just for Queenslanders, but for everyone.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are a very important part of the heritage of Queensland. Sadly these languages are endangered and could disappear in the next few decades.

More than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects were once spoken. Today around 50 of these remain, with less than 20 being used as first languages, predominantly in the north of the state and in the Torres Strait Islands.

There are community groups working to revive and maintain their languages, including the:

2017 National NAIDOC theme

The 2017 National NAIDOC theme was Our Languages Matter. The 2017 theme "aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in both cultural identity, linking people to their land and water, and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song." Find out more on the NAIDOC website.

State Library of Queensland resources

The State Library of Queensland provides a range of resources and activities about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, including.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language resources

Language group maps

Learn about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages

Programs and community groups preserving languages

  • Banma Kiya is Queensland’s Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee, supporting and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait language programs in Queensland.
  • First Languages Australia helps share news about language programs and work to preserve Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Australia.
  • Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre helps preserve Indigenous languages across the world through the use of language software for computers.
  • The Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative helps support Aboriginal peoples, especially the Gumbaynggirr, in the revival and preservation of their language and culture.
  • Our languages hopes to protect, preserve and help you learn the languages of Aboriginal peoples in Australia. The website also lists language centres that support programs and activities to preserve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
  • The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive of literature written in Aboriginal languages from the Northern Territory, Australia.

Listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language samples

Download language apps

There are more than a dozen Aboriginal language apps currently available. A list of the apps has been published on the Creative Spirits website.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander word of the week

This week's word is: Galangul allara

Pronunciation: Gull-ung-ull al-a-ra

Meaning: Good day

Language: Wakka Wakka

Location: Gayndah, North Burnett

(source: State Library of Queensland word lists)

Disclaimer: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are oral languages that have only been written down since the arrival of Europeans. There may be several variations in spelling and pronunciation. Always check with local language speakers/custodians as to the preferred local pronunciation.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated:
21 August 2017
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