Indigenous languages at extinction crossroads
Indigenous languages experts from across the country and overseas gathered at the University of Adelaide recently to discuss Australia's endangered languages and to call for urgent action to save them.
Three linguistic conferences were held at the University in September, under the joint name of LINGAD 2007, all hosted by the University's Discipline of Linguistics.
Conference Convenor Dr Rob Amery said language was central to establishing Indigenous people's social identity, but all Indigenous Australian languages were endangered.
"Australia's Indigenous languages are at a crossroads," Dr Amery said. "Current Federal Government interventionist policies are being introduced without any thought of the harmful effects of those policies on Indigenous languages. There is naturally a focus on basic survival issues - child safety, health and so on - but it is all too easy to forget the fundamental role that language plays - and has played for millennia - in establishing Indigenous Australians' sense of social identity. That in turn leads to a sense of well-being and self-esteem."
Dr Amery said Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages represented this country's unique and irreplaceable linguistic heritage. He said that they were worth fighting for and investing in, and that they should be officially recognised by all levels of government.
The conference considered a number of formal recommendations for government and community action, aimed at valuing, protecting and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island languages.