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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

The Hon Jenny Macklin MP
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigneous Affairs

New national approach to preserve Indigenous languages

Joint media release
9 August 2009

Indigenous languages will live on for future generations of Australians under a new approach being taken by the Australian Government.

The new National Indigenous Languages Policy is aimed at keeping Indigenous languages alive and supporting Indigenous Australians to connect with their language, culture and country.

Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin announced the new approach on the International Day of the World's Indigenous People.

Each year on 9 August the United Nations celebrates and showcases the culture, history and languages of the world's Indigenous people.

The Government's new approach to preserving Indigenous language comes as a report found that of the 145 Indigenous languages still spoken in Australia, 110 are at risk of disappearing.

The National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005, revealed that the languages under threat are now spoken by only by small groups of people, mostly over 40 years old and are at risk of being lost.

This new national approach will improve coordination between those who are already working to support Indigenous languages including government, cultural institutions, Indigenous languages organisations, and education and research bodies.

It will focus on five key areas:

'We recognise the intrinsic connection between languages, culture and country and the vital role they play in building and enriching Indigenous community life,' Mr Garrett said.

'These languages are also a significant part of Australia's heritage, and we must ensure they are protected for the benefit of future generations.

'A focused and coordinated national approach is critical to safeguard Indigenous culture and save these unique languages.'

Ms Macklin said reconnecting with language helped many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to feel proud and strong in their identity.

'It is so important for all people to be aware and proud of their traditions and culture and this, of course, includes celebrating the unique qualities of their own language,' Ms Macklin said.

'Recognising the importance of language and culture is also an essential part of resetting our relationship with Indigenous Australians and working more effectively together'.

'All Australian Governments have committed $38.6 million towards interpreting and translating services as part of the new Remote Service Delivery sites.

We are also committed to introducing a national framework for the effective provision and use of Indigenous language interpreters and translators.'

The Australian Government's Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records (MILR) program will continue to play a central role in the rescue and maintenance of Indigenous languages.

The program supports 65 projects across Australia involved in the development and use of databases, language resources and the delivery of language programs.

The Australian Government has committed $9.3 million over the next year towards protecting Indigenous languages.

The policy is available at Indigenous languages - A National Approach (www.arts.gov.au/indigenous/languages_policy )

Commonwealth of Australia