New website revitalises indigenous languages of Australia

(28 November 2014) The State Library of New South Wales has launched the Indigenous Languages website as part of its Rediscovering Indigenous Languages project.

At the time of Australian settlement there were more than 250 known Indigenous languages across the country. Now only about 20 are spoken fluently. The project aims to preserve and revitalise some of the oldest languages in the world by locating, digitising and providing access to Indigenous word lists, language records and other cultural documents, starting with the State Library of New South Wales’ collections. Some items in the Library’s collections are the only known surviving records of these particular languages.

The project draws upon initial research undertaken by Dr Michael Walsh, Senior Research Fellow at AIATSIS. It is driven by the Indigenous Services team at the State Library of New South Wales in collaboration with Indigenous communities.

Earlier this year NSLA’s Indigenous project group met with representatives of First Languages Australia. A statement about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language services and collections in NSLA libraries was released in July. The statement acknowledges that our collections contain important Indigenous language material, ‘much of which remains unidentified and has been hidden or inaccessible to Indigenous communities’. It sets out shared objectives for identifying and making these materials accessible to the communities they pertain to as a priority and then to the broader community in accordance with recognised protocols.

Several NSLA libraries are working with communities to repatriate digital copies of local Indigenous collection material, including language material. In Western Australia, the Storylines project has resulted in the repatriation of 150 photographs to date with a further 400 images repatriated through other community engagement projects.

The announcement is here.