The NSW Government will develop a bill that explicitly recognises Aboriginal people as the owners of their traditional languages. It will also give higher priority to government efforts to support the protection of these languages for future generations.
If passed, NSW will become the first state in Australia to introduce legislation to protect traditional Aboriginal languages and establish an Aboriginal Languages Centre to support community-led revival efforts.
Two hundred years ago there were 35 Aboriginal languages and about 100 dialects spoken. Today, all Aboriginal languages are critically endangered.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams said Aboriginal Affairs NSW would undertake consultation with Aboriginal language experts and the broader community to inform development of the bill.
“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,” Mrs Williams said.
“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."
The legislation will be introduced to parliament in 2017.