ATSIC commits to language support in NSW PDF Print E-mail

In early 1999 the NSW Elected Arm resolved that ATSIC should afford a higher priority to meeting the language and cultural needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

WITH the aim of overseeing a more coordinated approach to language management in the future, the New South Wales Elected Arm of ATSIC have surveyed and reported on the position of Aboriginal languages in all areas of the State.

The report so far makes a number of key observations, which include:

  • A strong perception among NSW indigenous people that NSW has been neglected and underfunded in language maintenance projects;
  • Funding of NSW language maintenance projects receive 10% of ATSIC national language program funding despite having nearly 30% of the indigenous population;
  • There is sufficient documentation and community knowledge to be able to develop a successful language maintenance program for most languages in NSW;
  • Successful language maintenance programs rely on a complex mix of factors including long-term commitment and ownership by key stakeholders, access to technical expertise and an understanding by all players of the complexity of the processes involved.


The NSW members overwhelmingly determined to adopt a new strategic approach to the revival and preservation of Aboriginal languages in the State.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) were commissioned to complete a NSW Strategic Language Study.

The terms of reference, which clearly reflected the NSW Elected Arm's desire to be strategic in support of language maintenance, were:

  • An overview of current language maintenance activities and available resources including details of language teaching programs;
  • the effectiveness of such activities;
  • details of available resources including funding sources;
  • availability and assessment of teaching resources, including materials and levels of community support and involvement.
  • An assessment as to the status and viability of Aboriginal languages, identifying areas in most need of urgent attention. Such assessment to identify and/or take into account language viability matters including number of speakers of each language group.
  • An assessment of the structure and effectiveness of any existing language maintenance projects and programs and/or co-ordinating organisations. Such assessment to include recommendations as to the platform for the development of a resource driven Strategic Action Plan for future structures and decision-making for language, maintenance and revival support for NSW languages.

The AIATSIS Study team, well resourced with professional qualified expertise, commenced their NSW fieldwork in October 1999 and completed it in June 2000.The study team, acknowledging the critical importance of community consultations participated in over 100 meetings, with community members, representatives from Aboriginal Community Organisations, local Aboriginal Land Councils, and interested State and Federal Government Agencies.The study team addressed ATSIC Regional Councils and convened open consultation meetings in Bourke, Dubbo,Wagga, Bateman's Bay, Parramatta, Coff's Harbour and Moree.

The data collected provides an overview of current language maintenance activities, available resources, the status and viability of languages, levels of community support and involvement, along with a picture of the structure and effectiveness of any existing language maintenance programs.