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1998 will be remembered by me as a year of consolidation for FATSIL. As an all Aboriginal organisation, it successfully sought to be heard, and recognised as a peak body representing the best interests of our people and Aboriginal languages in Australia.

The organisation has overcome a number of obstacles over time, none more so than over the past year. Managing its affairs with minimal resources both financial and human, placed unwarranted strain on the organisation. While those directly affected will acknowledge it was a stressful period, the outcomes will serve FATSIL well in the future.

Staff, committee, individuals and language centres willing to assist and help came forward, enabling the organisation to not only survive, but gain strength from the experience. My thanks to all those who persisted and showed their support. FATSIL has the skills and ability to assist with any language issue, provided it is part of the process, and I stress the importance and need for effective two-way verbal or written communication. I actively encourage Aboriginal people to become members of FATSIL and their own language organisation, in unified support of our centres and languages. FATSIL, like the ATSILIP program and many centres, is under funded, vet manages to achieve its goals in spite of a tiny budget.

Language is gaining greater recognition, and has only recently been linked by importance to heritage and culture. The fact is, without language you struggle to have either of the other. The challenge to government is to adequately fund ATSILIP, which if linked to a reasonable time frame could achieve all language goafls.

FATSIL will continue to lobby for more language funds to enable centres to do their very important work. Sadly we are losing our elders, the world's most cost-effective and qualified linguists at an alarming rate, and can no longer afford to waste time and funds, while this valuable resource, our people, diminish.

Given the national structure of FATSIL, the newsletter, the "Voice of the Land" plays a vital networking and communication role, informing people of the tremendous work being done in Aboriginal languages nationally and internationally. The project demands a positive future as it serves Aboriginal people and FATSIL very well.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge the work of the entire FATSIL committee. and to thank Ysola Best - secretary, and Faith Baisden, editor of the FATSIL newsletter. Also thank you to all who I have met or had the pleasure of sharing a moment with over the past twelve months, as chairperson of FATSIL, the peak body supporting community based language initiatives in Australia.

Lester Coyne
FATSIL Chairperson.