Dispossession and revival of Indigenous languages

Before British colonisation, over 250 languages and 800 dialects were spoken in Australia. The active preservation, recording and promotion of these languages is necessary for their survival.

Before British colonisation, over 250 languages and 800 dialects were spoken in Australia.

Colonisation led to the displacement of First Australians and subsequent government policies aimed to suppress the speaking of their languages. As a result, most of these languages are now endangered or have ceased to be spoken.

From the mid-20th century onwards, civil rights campaigns have prompted changes in government policies and practices and recognition of the rights of First Australians. These changes included:

  • the establishment of organisations such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
  • bilingual and Indigenous language programs in schools
  • measures to preserve and revive First Australian languages.

Today the active preservation, recording and promotion of First Australian languages is necessary for their survival.

Curriculum areas

  • Year 10 History
  • Year 11 History
  • Year 12 History

Questions

  • Why are First Australian languages important?
  • What caused First Australians to be dispossessed of their languages?
  • How have attitudes to First Australian languages changed? Provide examples.

Records