Australia’s first languages

Australia’s first languages are a wonderful and precious resource.

Australia is situated in one of the world’s linguistic hot spots. Our languages are treasures of international significance. They are a bridge to rich and important information. When a language is lost a deep body of knowledge is lost with it.

In the late 18th century, there were between 350 and 750 distinct Australian social groupings, and a similar number of languages. At the start of the 21st century, fewer than 150 indigenous languages remain in daily use, and all except roughly 20 are highly endangered. Of those that endure, only 10% are being learned by children, and those languages are most often located in isolated areas.

Language bridges the dark space between tangible and intangible cultural heritage. It is most tangible at the intersection between things. It is an interface for a people to connect with the world around them, with other people within their own language community, and with people from other places.

Language is also undeniably an interface within community, within an individual, and within a culture.

Australia has the potential to become a strong and healthy nation for all its peoples. When Indigenous language communities are strong and healthy, and have the power to control their own destiny, then we as a nation will have cohesion. Language is key to Indigenous well-being in Australia.

The good news is that many language groups are working to preserve their languages and these languages – quietly and persistently – are being restored to use.

Our languages are alive.

Together with hundreds of people and organisations around the country, First Languages Australia is working to make sure these treasures are not lost, and that they continue to be used and become strong and vibrant.

We invite you to join us on this exciting journey.

For more information on Australian languages go to First Languages Australia’s website.