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First Nations in Education

Indigenous Languages


Banner image of blue, overlapping clouds. Overlaid is a quote reading: "Language carries with it information about who we are, how we express ourselves and culture, and how we define the world around us."


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages

Before the colonisation of Australia around 250 Indigenous languages were spoken throughout the country.  According to the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) many of these languages had multiple dialects. Prior to settlement many Indigenous individuals were able to speak five or more languages.

Currently, reports have found that of the 145 Indigenous languages still spoken in Australia, 110 are at risk of being lost. Many Indigenous languages are critically endangered with some languages now only spoken by small groups, many of whom are over 40 years of age.

Language is a vital aspect of cultural identity and engenders a sense of belonging to community and country.


Image of Aboriginal Language Map

Click on the image above for an interactive Indigenous Language Map

Text © ABC 2009
Language data © Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS and Auslig/Sinclair, Knight, Merz, 1996. David R Horton, creator.
Map data © Europa Technologies, MapData Sciences Pty Ltd, PSMA, Tele Atlas