New South Wales (NSW) recently passed legislation that acknowledges the value of indigenous language, and the importance it holds to the country’s First Peoples and to the cultural heritage of NSW. The legislation is a milestone for Australia, as it is the first bill enacted to expand and protect Aboriginal languages in Australia. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell was optimistic about the new legislation, stating “The NSW Government has worked tirelessly alongside Aboriginal communities, Elders and language experts to develop legislation that acknowledges the importance of Aboriginal languages for past, current and future generations,” Ms Mitchell said. “I am proud of how far we have come and I’m committed to working alongside Aboriginal people from right across the State as we continue on this journey to promote and reawaken languages.”
The legislation created a new not-for-profit government agency called the Aboriginal Languages Trust. According to the bill, “The objective of the Trust is to provide a focused, coordinated, and sustained effort in relation to Aboriginal languages at local, regional, and state levels.” The goals of the trust include bringing in professionals with knowledge of Aboriginal languages to provide advice and director for Aboriginal language activities. This not only creates an informed environment, but also creates possible jobs for Aboriginals.
Other goals include identifying and promoting Aboriginal language activities, promoting education and employment opportunities in Aboriginal language activities, developing resources, and providing guidance to the Government. The trust will also encourage the wider use and appreciation of Aboriginal languages and work with the Geographical Names Board on the use of Aboriginal languages in the naming of geographical locations.
The legislation also set out to create an aboriginal languages strategic plan in order to nurture the growth of Aboriginal languages. The plan will be created by the trust over the course of the next two years.