Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages

The State Library of Queensland acknowledges that language heritage and knowledge always remains with the Traditional Owners, Elders, language custodians and other community members of the respective language Nation.

These webpages are provided to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the revival, documentation and preservation of traditional languages. Additionally, content such as wordlists and other resources help to raise awareness and promote Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

On the following webpages, visitors can find out about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, language centres and language resources in Queensland.

All Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects in Queensland are considered to be ‘endangered’. This means there are very few fluent speakers of the language. The State Library of Queensland supports community language revival activities through community workshops and the development of language resources, including these webpages.

2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages

On 21 October 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Resolution A/RES/71/178 on “Rights of Indigenous peoples” proclaiming 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages. UNESCO will serve as the lead organization for the International Year of Indigenous Languages beginning on 1st January 2019. Within Australia the Australian Government Department of Communication and the Arts through their Indigenous Languages and Arts program will take the lead at a National level; while in Queensland the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy will be the driving force for Queensland activity.

State Library has commenced planning to embrace the International Year of Indigenous Languages with a series of events and activities that celebrate Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Key Themes

  • Queensland has a rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
  • Of the 100+ Queensland languages and dialects, only 2 are considered to be ‘thriving/living’ languages.
  • State Library through the network of IKCs, Public Libraries and Language Centres plays a key role in supporting community language revival.

The focus of the year would be to celebrate Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as well as raise awareness of their fragile nature to the broader community. 2019IYIL aims to inform and inspire and engage communities with collections to share and tell their stories using their language. The voices of language communities need to be heard not just across the State Library precinct but across Queensland.

Business as usual

  • There are a number of ongoing activities across State Library which connect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and will be adapted or extended to align with 2019IYIL.

Celebration events

  • State Library through the extensive network of Public Libraries, IKCs and our community partners including Indigenous Language Centres will host signature events that celebrate 2019IYIL; these will include a Festival of Languages, Language Exhibitions and regional events.

Build knowledge

  • Extend research activities that engage community with State Library collections to increase their capacity to create new knowledge.

Raise awareness

  • As communities reclaim their language, there is a need to share and bring this heritage into the public arena through events, programming, media and an online presence.

The State Library Indigenous Languages Project welcomes your thoughts and ideas around IY2019 and will be working with Indigenous Language Centres, IKCs, Public Libraries and community language workers over upcoming months as part of our planning. We look forward to joining with community in celebrating IY2019 as well as supporting community groups to revive and maintain traditional languages across Queensland.

While State Library is exploring ideas for IY2019, we acknowledge it is important that Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language communities are an integral part of the development or implementation of any events or activities. 'Nothing for us, without us' is one of the fundamental principles of the UN Action Plan - it will certainly shape how State Library will work with communities in celebrating the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

State Library's partnership with the Australian Government

The Indigenous Languages Program and associated activities at the State Library of Queensland are supported through funding from the Indigenous Languages Support Program (ILS) from the Australian Government’s Department of Communication and the Arts.

Note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is the preferred terminology rather than Indigenous; however proper names that incorporate 'Indigenous' may appear on these webpages. For example, Indigenous Languages Project, Indigenous Languages Strategy, Indigenous Languages Support Program and Indigenous Knowledge Centres.

Why language is important

Ethel Munn is an Elder of the Gunggari Aboriginal people of south west Queensland. She explains the importance of language....

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages map of Queensland

An interactive map showing the distribution of the various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages throughout the state of Queensland,...

Word lists

Links to a range of word lists supporting Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in their work to document...

Languages of the Torres Strait Islands

Information about Torres Strait Islander languages....

Meston Papers

Overview of Archibald Meston's materials on Indigenous languages...

New media toolkit

New media makes it possible for anyone to create, modify and share Indigenous language content with others, using relatively simple...

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