Louise Mullins, QCOSS

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme Our Languages Matter celebrates the essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity and the importance of preserving them for future generations.

More than 250 Indigenous language groups existed at first (significant) European contact in the late eighteenth century. Today there are only around 120 languages still spoken and many of these are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.

This year’s NAIDOC theme plays a valuable role in the importance of maintaining and reviving language.

Language links people to their land and water and is essential in passing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites through story and song.

In Queensland, more than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects were once spoken and today around 50 are still spoken mainly in the north of the state, such as Cape York and Torres Strait. However, less than 20 of these are first languages.

Two Queensland languages that are classed as strong or thriving are the Wik Mungkan group of languages on Western Cape York and Kalaw Lagaw Ya in the Torres Strait, with 500 community speakers across all ages.

With more than 100 languages and dialects considered to be ‘endangered’, there is an urgency for community language preservation.

The State Library of Queensland supports community language revival activities through community workshops and the development of language resources on their webpages.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are not just a means of communication but they are also the connection to history to pass on to other generations.

Across the country many of our place names for suburbs, rivers, mountains and parks come from Indigenous languages and by encouraging people to observe these words it should create a greater appreciation and respect for the significance of language among all Australians.

The NAIDOC theme Our Languages Matter encourages all Australians to notice the use of Indigenous languages in their community.

This year NAIDOC Week celebrations will be held from Sunday 2 July to Sunday 9 July 2017.

To find out more about NAIDOC and events happening in your area go to the NAIDOC website.

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