AIATSIS: Preserving Endangered Language Heritage PDF Print E-mail

Derek Nannup, Kyle Morrison and Irma Woods, members of the Yirra Yaakin Noongar Theatre, bring language and culture to life in the company's production of Djildjit (fish). The collection of traditional stories and songs is designed to reach out to young audiences with the best elements of modern theatre to support the production.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) is being funded for three years through the ATSIC Language Access Initiatives Program, to undertake much needed work on language material in its Recorded Sound Archive.

Over the forty years of its existence, AIATSIS has acquired over 30,000 hours of recorded sound material, much of which is undocumented. This makes access to the material difficult. There is also a backlog in the creation of preservation copies. Through the Preserving Endangered Language Heritage project, the Institute will finally be able to address some of this backlog and improve access to its collections.
One significant outcome of the project, will be the production of compilation tapes of specific languages, which AIATSIS will make available to Indigenous people, families and community organisations free of charge, within the budget of the grant.

While the grant will allow AIATSIS to make significant progress on the documentation and preservation of this invaluable heritage collection of language tapes, it will not be possible to work on the whole backlog. Therefore, the Institute sought FATSIL's input into what were the priority areas in which to concentrate our efforts. Following recent consultations and advice from FATSIL, the Institute will focus primarily on languages which are currently undergoing revival or maintenance work.

The Institute's Library and Audiovisual Archives are currently closed so that we can undertake work preparing the cultural heritage materials in our care for their safe removal to our new building. When we reopen on March 12, we will start providing regular updates to The Voice of the Land detailing which languages we have been working on. Thank you to those people who have contacted us already and we apologise for the delays in obtaining tapes due to our closure.

To assist us in identifying which languages are of interest, AIATSIS would like to hear from anyone currently involved in reviving or maintaining their language. We would also like to hear from anyone who is planning to undertake language work and will require archival resources.