Indigenous languages at extinction crossroads

Friday, 21 September 2007

Indigenous languages experts from across the country and overseas will gather at the University of Adelaide next week to discuss Australia's endangered languages and to call for urgent action to save them.

Three linguistic conferences are being held at the University over 25-28 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," says Dr Amery. "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.

"We hope these conferences will demonstrate that Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages represent this country's unique and irreplaceable linguistic heritage, are worth fighting for and investing in, and that they should be officially recognised by all levels of government."

The conference will consider formal recommendations for government and community action aimed at valuing, protecting and promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island languages.

The three conferences are the Indigenous Languages Conference on 25-27 September, sharing some sessions with the Annual Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society on 26-28 September, and the 2007 conference of Australex, the Australasian Association for Lexicography on 25 September. Details of all three conferences can be found at

Conference speakers include Phillip Cash Cash, also known as Yellow Hawk, from the University of Arizona, who will speak on endangered languages in the Columbia Plateau of western North America, and Te Haumihiata Mason, a Maori language consultant who is working on a monolingual Maori dictionary for the Maori Language Commission.

A 'Hypothetical' titled "Who controls your language" will be held at 6.30pm on Wednesday 26 September in the Napier Building Lecture Theatre 102. The MC will be Indigenous linguist Dr Jaky Troy, involved for many years in Aboriginal language projects.


Contact Details

Dr Rob Amery
Department of Linguistics
School of Humanities
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3924
Mobile: +61 (0)458 545 052

Ms Robyn Mills
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084