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NSW first to protect Aboriginal languages

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Nats Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams has announced that NSW will become the first state to introduce landmark legislation to protect traditional Aboriginal languages and foster initiatives to support community-led efforts to revive those endangered languages.

Not only will the bill be the first of its kind, it highlights the importance of Aboriginal languages as part of Australia's rich heritage. 

The bill will be designed to explicitly recognise Aboriginal people as the owners of their traditional languages and will place a higher priority on future governments to continue supporting language protection in Australia. In addition to the bill, an Aboriginal Languages Centre will also be established to support community-led revival efforts. Leslie spoke of the importance of protecting traditional Aboriginal languages: 

“Aboriginal people have told us language is indivisible from their identity and we have listened – the cultural inheritance of our Aboriginal communities is too precious to be lost. 200 years ago there were 35 Aboriginal languages and about 100 dialects spoken. Today, all Aboriginal languages are critically endangered.”

Subject to community consultation about how the Language Centre will function, the proposed Centre will develop strategies to prevent further language loss and build capacity within communities to revive languages. Leslie said Aboriginal Affairs NSW will undertake consultation with Aboriginal language experts and the broader community to inform the development of the bill before it is introduced in full to State Parliament in 2017.

“We respect the diversity of opinions within Aboriginal communities and we welcome passionate debate on how best to achieve our shared goal of reviving traditional languages,” said Leslie. 

For more information about the reform visit www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au.

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