LANDMARK ABORIGINAL LANGUAGE LEGISLATION AN HISTORIC MOVE

Monday, 21 November 2016

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has applauded moves to legislate to protect traditional Aboriginal languages across NSW, saying it will preserve a cultural and social icon for indigenous people for future generations.

Mr Marshall has welcomed an announcement from Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams that will make NSW the first state in Australia to introduce such landmark legislation in 2017.

Mr Marshall said the Minister’s move would protect traditional Aboriginal languages and establish an Aboriginal Languages Centre to support community-led revival efforts.

“This area of NSW has one of the highest populations of Aboriginal people in NSW; it’s almost four times the state average and in some places in the Northern Tablelands it is up as high as 25 per cent of the local overall population,” Mr Marshall said.

“The Census figures tell us that about five percent of the whole of the NSW Aboriginal population lives in this region – and the overriding numbers of these proud peoples are young people, so this legislation is tremendously important and significant for them.

“There have been many people, including academics at the University of New England and other social groups, particularly at Moree, who have been supporting the preservation of local Aboriginal languages, through history groups and formal studies and work to teach those languages to younger generations.

“This legislation is wonderful and will be warmly welcomed.”

Minister Williams said the NSW Government would develop a bill that will explicitly recognise that Aboriginal people are the owners of their traditional languages, while giving higher priority to government efforts to support the protection of these languages for future generations.

“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,” Mrs Williams said.

“Two hundred years ago there were 35 Aboriginal languages and about 100 dialects spoken. Today, all Aboriginal languages are critically endangered.

“Research shows that Aboriginal children learning a language do better at school and language renewal strengthens communities.”

Mrs Williams said Aboriginal Affairs NSW will undertake consultation with Aboriginal language experts and the broader community to inform development of the bill before it is introduced to Parliament in 2017.

“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.

For more information please visit www.aboriginalaffairs.nsw.gov.au

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