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Emily Wurramara performing on the Queensland Terrace at the Minya Birran: what now for Indigenous languages? forum held on International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2020. Watch In conversation with Emily Wurramara, Keynote speech with Associate Professor Henrietta Marrie AM and much more here.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and stories

State Library of Queensland collects, preserves and shares the documentary heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people across the State. Through consultation and collaboration, the State Library's collections serve as a central point of access and programming, including exhibitions and showcases, family history workshops, language research, and contemporary storytelling.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages

Vicki McDonald, State Librarian and CEO attending the Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop in the Talking Circle, kuril dhagun, June 2019.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are storehouses of cultural knowledge and tradition, but sadly these languages are endangered to the point that all of them may disappear in the next few decades. In Queensland, over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects were once spoken. Today around 50 of these remain spoken (in varying degrees), with less than 20 being used as first languages.

Throughout 2019 State Library's collections and programs will be in the spotlight for the United Nations' International Year of Indigenous Languages. Language is intrinsically linked to Indigenous peoples’ way of life, cultures and identities. Language brings meaning to cultural heritage and articulates the intricate relationships between Indigenous peoples and their connection to their land and community.

Check out the Indigenous Languages blog or find out more below to explore the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language activities and resources.

kuril dhagun

kuril dhagun has been State Library’s centre for Queensland's unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures since 2006. kuril dhagun promotes and celebrates Queensland’s First Peoples' cultures, histories and stories. It is a gathering place for all people to engage, share, listen and learn through an ongoing public program of showcases and events.  

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Aunty Lesley Williams speaking at the launch of Our Sporting Greats showcase, 2018, with former kuril dhagun team member, Willie Prince, watching on.

Community history

Connection to country and community plays a central role in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many communities have faced disruption and disconnection, affecting the very lives of the people who call them home. 

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Map showing the distribution of Aboriginal tribes of Australia (Norman. B. Tindale, 1940). View in the Collection here.

Contemporary stories

Through programming and collection acquisitions, State Library records and shares contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories, reawakening knowledge and keeping culture strong.

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A Night by the fire with Professor Anita Heiss during National Reconciliation Week, 2018. Watch this event and more here.

Blogs, exhibitions and recordings

View our collection of blogs,exhibitions and recordings.

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Participants of the Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop, June 2018.

Community viewing the Palm Island and Our People showcase 2018

State Library's dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program space, kuril dhagun, hosts a program of showcases highlighting community stories and related collections. Developed through a philosophy of co-curation and co-creation, these showcases seek to share rarely heard stories from the point of view of those involved. Explore the current showcase below.

Researchers exploring the State Library collections

State Library assists Queenslanders with Family History research through collections access, research, and comprehensive resources, as well as targeted workshops. Click on the button below for online resources to start your journey.

Scragg Sarah nd Dancers Performing at the Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival 2009 Collection reference 10183 Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival photographs

The histories and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland are diverse, rich and alive. These complex histories is written in the landscape, depicted in artwork, told in dreamtime stories, spoken by elders and only quite recently placed on paper.

State Library of Queensland collects a range of material pertaining to Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people, including photographs, ephemera, posters, oral histories and digital stories. We also feature Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and artists of national significance.

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Indigenous Knowledge Centres or IKCs are a particular type of public library; they are communal hubs that combine traditional library services with a keeping place for recording, accessing and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures of Queensland. IKCs are owned, managed and staffed by local Aboriginal Councils and the Torres Strait Island Regional Council. State Library funds and facilitates the establishment of each IKC and provides ongoing support through staff training and delivery of programs to promote literacy, build community networks and keep culture strong.