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Queensland preserving the world’s oldest languages


By Genevieve Waldie

A new Queensland Government language policy will help preserve Australian Indigenous languages which are at risk of being lost forever.

While Queensland is home to hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, very few are still spoken today.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), only 7% of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander residents in the state report speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home.

These endangered languages are an important part of Queensland’s cultural heritage, they are the record of a culture passed on through songs, stories and dance. With very few fluent speakers remaining, these languages could easily be lost forever.

“Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Policy is a significant step towards a reframed relationship with First Nations people,” says Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford.

“This policy, the first of its kind in Queensland, has been developed in partnership with representatives of various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups and will help preserve First Nations languages.”

The new language preservation policy follows the recent commitment from the State Government to progress the “Path to Treaty” process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and is the result of three months of state-wide consultation with Indigenous leaders and elders. It recognises that these languages can play a critical role in the healing and strengthening of individuals and communities.

Minister for Education Grace Grace said the policy would also strengthen existing partnerships between schools and communities.

“More than 80 Queensland state schools are working with local communities to teach 35 different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, reaching thousands of students.

“Every action taken to preserve First Nations languages helps connect children, families, communities and future generations to culture and identity in Queensland. Supporting communities to preserve and maintain their languages, to speak and engage through their languages of choice, is essential for equal access to opportunities, inclusion and supporting Queensland’s diversity,” she said.

Queenslanders can now apply for grants of up to $25,000 towards initiatives to promote, preserve and revitalise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Applications close 11.59 pm (AEST) Tuesday 6 October 2020

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