Strengthening Australia’s First Languages

Friday, 7 July 2017 - 12:15pm
AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie and FLA Manager Faith Baisden sign MOU
AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie and FLA Manager Faith Baisden sign the MOU. Photo AIATSIS

Increased access to language materials, and collaboration on and promotion of language projects are the focus of a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and First Languages Australia (FLA).

AIATSIS CEO Craig Ritchie said the partnership is especially significant given the Institute’s role as caretakers of a vast collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language materials.

“AIATSIS holds the world’s most extensive collection of materials dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ knowledge, history and culture – over 1 million items. Included in this is 40,000 hours of audio recordings and the Australian Indigenous Languages Collection, with over 4,500 titles in over 200 Australian languages, which is inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register,” Mr Ritchie said.

“Understanding the needs of language communities in Australia, and increasing their access to and understanding of our collection is vital. This partnership is crucial to giving AIATSIS a direct line of communication to the people working on the frontline of language strengthening and revival.”

First Languages Australia is the Indigenous peak body working to ensure the future strength of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

First Languages Australia Manager Faith Baisden said it’s essential that both organisations honour the trust placed in them by the language custodians.

“This means that we work together to see that language knowledge is securely archived, and that we continue to find ways to make it more accessible for community members when they need to research and use the materials for new language projects,” Ms Baisden said.
“Fortunately new technologies will make this continually easier to achieve.”

The MOU provides a framework for collaboration between AIATSIS and FLA in relation to partnerships in relevant projects, communication and promotion of appropriate services, awareness-raising of AIATSIS services, policies and protocols, development of language services at AIATSIS, and other matters of interest.

This MOU comes into place as the Nation celebrates NAIDOC Week 2017, with this year’s theme Our Languages Matter emphasising and celebrating the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in both cultural identity, linking people to their land and water, and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Media release

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