Queensland government releases new strategy to preserve state’s Indigenous languages: ABC

ABC Radio Brisbane /By Jack McKay
Posted Oct 23, 2023

Click here to read the original article on ABC

Key points:

  • The Queensland government has released a new strategy aimed at reviving and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages
  • More than $238,000 in grants have also been awarded to 25 organisations to support their efforts to preserve languages
  • The Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee says the state was once home to about 150 traditional languages

Queensland community groups and organisations will be given hundreds of thousands of dollars in new grants to help preserve and revitalise First Nations languages across the state.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Minister Leeanne Enoch will announce the grant recipients today as a new strategy is unveiled to revive and strengthen Indigenous languages.

The government’s plan features 40 actions, including using First Nations languages for place names and research at the Queensland State Archives to identify languages and language groups.

Ms Enoch said ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages were “strong, acknowledged, maintained, and accessible” was vital to truth-telling amid the state’s Path to Treaty process.

“Ensuring children learn Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages is an integral part of preservation,” she said.

“It forms a sense of continuity between the leaders of the past and the leaders of tomorrow.

“Children in Lockhart River have already benefited from Indigenous Languages Grant funding for storybooks in the Umpila and Kuuku Ya’u language.”

The new action plan includes continuing the government’s Indigenous Language Grants program, which helps community groups deliver language programs across the state.

In the latest round of grants, more than $238,000 will be given to 25 organisations in Queensland, which will help support the preservation of 42 languages.

Recipients will use the funds for various projects, including Indigenous language school signage, language cards, and multimedia resources to teach languages.

The grants will also fund the recording and translation of traditional songs, new language books, and art yarning sessions.

‘Only 20 languages that remain strong’

Joyce Bonner,  chairperson of the Queensland Indigenous Languages Advisory Committee, said past policies and practices had resulted in “significant language loss”.

“Queensland was once home to around 150 traditional languages. Now, there are only 20 languages that remain strong and continue to be spoken,” she said.

“Elders were once punished for speaking in traditional language.

“Their oral stories, spoken in language and shared in song and dance, was how we learnt about our ancestors, culture and heritage.”

The new languages strategy, which will cover the next three years, includes several new actions and many others that were in the previous strategy between 2020 and 2022.

Of the 36 actions from the previous languages strategy, three have been “completed”, 25 are “on track”, and the remaining measures have faced delays and complications or have been discontinued.

Initiatives in the new strategy include grants for artists to provide “community-based” activities to promote First Nations languages.

Public libraries will also provide tools and professional development to help communities record and document languages.

The government also wants to enable state schools to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to “increase the growth” of Indigenous languages by using those languages in the classroom.

Another measure is facilitating research at the Queensland State Archives to “identify languages and language groups” and develop “community-focused access” to language materials.