International Year of Indigenous Languages

Posted 17 January 2019

International Year of Indigenous Languages

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019). This raises awareness of the crucial role languages play in people’s daily lives.

In Australia, of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, only around 120 are still spoken. Of these approximately 90 per cent are endangered.

IY2019 is an opportunity to continue raising awareness and taking further actions to improve preservation and promotion of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

First Nations artists and arts workers offer advice on how to embrace the International Year of Indigenous Languages

Artist and Artistic Director of the 2020 Biennale of Sydney, Brook Andrew expresses that “Language strengthens culture and our self-commitment to remember who we are and our ancestors. The sad reality of linguicide in Australia and internationally requires visibility, celebration and programs supporting and strengthening Indigenous languages. He continues “the complexity of languages allows for different world views and understanding of our universe, otherwise humanity becomes conflated. Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that we have the right to sustain our language which also supports our sovereignty.”


Yirra Yaakin’s The Noongar Shakespeare Project; image via

Nici Cumpston; Artistic Director TARNANTHI and Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) provides some advice for people to best embrace this year’s theme.

‘Learn a few words in the language of the traditional owners where you live and work and when you travel, find out who the local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people are so you can acknowledge their sovereignty and ongoing connections to Country.’

Read the full article on ArtsHub

© 2019 Geelong Region ArtsAtlas web design by greengraphics