The importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages will be the focus of NAIDOC Week, 2-9 July 2017. The 2017 theme, Our Languages Matter, aims to celebrate the role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity.
Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups covered the continent at first (significant) European contact in the late 18th century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds.
Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost as Elders pass on.
Committee Co-Chair Benjamin Mitchell hopes that the theme will shine a spotlight on the programs and community groups working to preserve, revitalise or record Indigenous languages, and encourage all Australians to notice the use of Indigenous languages in their community.
“There is currently a wave of activity, with people in many communities working to learn more about their language, and to ensure they are passed on to the next generation before it is too late.’ Mitchell said.
“Nationally, many place names for our suburbs, rivers, mountains and parks are Indigenous language words. Noticing and paying attention to these words will generate greater appreciation and respect for the significance of language among all Australians."
NAIDOC Week celebrations are held around the country each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The 2017 National NAIDOC Awards will take place in Cairns, Queensland.