Indigenous Languages Support fact sheet

Indigenous Languages Support fact sheet (PDF 1.5 MB)

Australian Government funding to support the maintenance, revival and transmission of Australian Indigenous languages

Languages are both an expression of culture and the vehicle through which culture is kept alive.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the ability to speak or use words and phrases of Indigenous languages is a critical factor in cultural identity, and individual and community wellbeing.

The Australian Government's Indigenous Languages Support (ILS) funding aims to address the erosion and loss of Australia's estimated 250 Indigenous languages by providing funding for community based activities.

ILS is central to the implementation of the Australian Government's National Indigenous Languages Policy, which is a commitment to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples keep their languages alive and connect to their languages and culture.

As connections to languages and culture are fundamental to Indigenous health and wellbeing, support for Indigenous languages is essential for Closing the Gap.

The Australian Government's ILS funding aims to:

  • support the maintenance, revival, and development of Indigenous languages
  • increase the use of Indigenous languages in a range of fields and media
  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' engagement with their languages
  • promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing by strengthening pride in identity and culture through languages
  • promote public appreciation of Indigenous languages.

 

Communities learning language together strengthens the community and takes steps towards the reconciliation of our country.
Maree Klesch, Batchelor Institute, NT

 

Image: Elders Tjimpuna Dunn, Imuna Kenta and Angkuna Tjitayi sharing stories with young people, Ernabella, SA. Carclew Youth Arts. Source: Finton Mahony
Image: Elders Tjimpuna Dunn, Imuna Kenta and Angkuna Tjitayi sharing stories with young people, Ernabella, SA. Carclew Youth Arts. Source: Finton Mahony

Research shows links between language use and positive outcomes:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who speak Indigenous languages have markedly better physical and mental health, are more likely to be employed and are less likely to abuse alcohol or be charged by the police1
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 13 to 17 year olds in urban and regional areas are more likely to attend school if they speak an Indigenous language2
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in remote areas who speak an Indigenous language are less likely to engage in high risk alcohol consumption and illicit substance use, and to have been a victim of physical or threatened violence.3

What Indigenous Languages Support is achieving

Helping keep Indigenous languages alive

In 2011–12:

  • ILS provided $9.6 million to 75 activities across Australia supporting over 200 Indigenous languages
  • Around 52% of ILS activities resulted in reported increases in the number of people who can speak an Indigenous language (either fluently or a few words and sentences).

The Ngarrindjeri language (SA), spoken only by a handful of Elders in 2004, now has 270 speakers.

The 2011 Census also showed substantial increases in speaker numbers for:

  • Girramay (Qld) 271%
  • Kaurna (SA) 118%
  • Nunggubuyu (NT) 114%
  • Manyjilyjarra (WA) 107%
  • Kunwinjku (NT) 80%
  • Wiradjuri (NSW) 48%
  • Bandjalang (NSW) 25%

The Australian Government has invested significantly in all of the above languages over a number of years through ILS funding.

Based on ABS data.

 

In 2011–12, ILS activities used various language teaching methods
% of surveyed ILS organisations that used these language teaching methods

Helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to connect with their languages and culture

  • In 2011–12, over 16,900 people were involved in ILS funded activities across Australia
  • 41% of activities involved members of the Stolen Generations
  • Connections to languages and culture can have significant healing and rehabilitative effects.

Our languages are as diverse as our people are themselves, they are a true expression of one's thoughts, feelings and emotions, they connect us to the land and to the stars like no other, but most of all they guide us and they heal us.
Daryn McKenny, Miromaa Aboriginal Language and Technology Centre, NSW

 

Image: Kaurna language class. Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Aboriginal language, SA. Source: Dr Mary-Anne Gale.
Image: Kaurna language class. Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Aboriginal language, SA. Source: Dr Mary-Anne Gale

Developing new tools to expand the voice and presence of Indigenous languages, and to provide exciting opportunities for language transmission

In 2011–12, ILS activities developed a range of language resources and utilised new media
% of surveyed ILS organisations that reported these collaborations. Electronic dictionaries 57%, books 68%, language databases 64%, cds/dvds61%, audio content 46%, film content 39%, animations 18%, websites 61%, software/computer programs 29%, electronic games 7%, resources for ipods 11%, smart phone apps 4%.

 

Providing training and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In 2011–12, ILS activities resulted in training and skills development
% of surveyed ILS organisations that incorporated these outcomes. Skills development for community members 81%, mentoring 69%, on-the-job training 65%, and certificate or diploma training for language workers 23%.

In 2011–12, 39 jobs based in ILS funded organisations were supported through the Australian Government's Indigenous Employment Initiative, in roles such as language assistants and mentors.

Increasing community wellbeing

In 2011–12, ILS funded organisations identified increases in:

  • engagement of school students and increased literacy
  • enthusiasm towards language learning
  • availability of language resources
  • the use of language in public places including signage
  • community pride, empowerment and social cohesion
  • positive media coverage
  • self esteem, pride, sense of support, and connection with Elders.

Supporting community organisations and collaborations in urban, regional and remote Australia

In 2011–12, ILS provided:

  • $3.3 million to support organisations in remote Australia, including over $1.3 million to support projects in priority remote service
    delivery communities
  • $2.8 million to support regional organisations
  • $3.8 million to support organisations in major cities.

 

In 2011–12, ILS activities involved collaborations with various other sectors
% of surveyed ILS organisations that reported these collaborations. Sports 18%, legal system 11%, health system 21 %, universities 57%, TAFE 29%, schools 79%, correctional institutions 14%, cultural institutions 39%.

 

Closing the Gap

As strong culture is fundamental to Indigenous health and wellbeing, support for Indigenous languages provides a solid foundation to enable outcomes across the Closing the Gap building blocks and targets.

Contributing to other policy objectives

ILS contributes to a number of other Australian Government policy objectives and international commitments, including the:

  • Indigenous Contemporary Music Action Plan
  • Indigenous Economic Development Strategy
  • Stolen Generations Working Partnership
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.

The National Broadband Network (NBN) and new information and communication technologies hold immense potential for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity.

Support for Indigenous languages also contributes to other government objectives, such as social inclusion.

ILS funding is administered by the Office for the Arts

Image: The Tjiti Tjuta Inmaku Pakantjaku Children’s Inma project supports the intergenerational transmission of language through performance of children’s stories, Carclew Youth Arts, SA. Source: Finton Mahoney
Image: The Tjiti Tjuta Inmaku Pakantjaku Children's Inma project supports the intergenerational transmission of language through performance of children's stories, Carclew Youth Arts, SA.
Source: Finton Mahoney

References

  1. Dockery, A.M., 2011, 'Traditional culture and the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians: An analysis of the 2008 NATSISS' in Social Science Perspectives on the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 11–12 April 2011, CAEPR, ANU, Canberra.
  2. Hunter, B., 2007, 'Cumulative causation and the Productivity Commission's framework for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage', Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 10(3): p. 185–202.
  3. ABS, 2011, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, (cat. no. 4725.0) Canberra.

* Findings are based on analyses of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) data, which do not support arguments about causation but show positive associations after controlling for other factors.