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NSW Aboriginal Languages Legislation

The NSW Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 became law on 24 October 2017 and is the first legislation in Australia to acknowledge the significance of First Languages.

Aboriginal languages are important to NSW First peoples and all people in NSW. We want Aboriginal languages to be spoken by future generations of First Peoples.

The Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 seeks to promote, reawaken, nurture and grow Aboriginal languages across NSW. Aboriginal languages strengthen connections with culture and identity and improves the wellbeing of First Peoples.

The Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 has three parts:

  • A preamble which acknowledges the importance of Aboriginal languages and the importance of reawakening, nurturing and growing Aboriginal languages and Aboriginal custodianship of languages.
  • Establishment of an Aboriginal Languages Trust to resource local language activities (amongst other functions).
  • A 5-year Strategic Plan to guide investment and activities in language revival in NSW.

The journey so far (for NSW Government)

Since 2003 Aboriginal Affairs was responsible for the NSW Aboriginal Languages Policy, the Aboriginal Language Research and Resource Centre, and supporting local language activities through its grant programs.

During 2012, the Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs heard of the importance of Aboriginal languages to communities. OCHRE, the community-focused plan for Aboriginal affairs in NSW proposed the development of a new NSW Aboriginal Languages Policy and other language initiatives such as Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests.

The NSW Government agreed to develop a NSW Aboriginal Languages Bill in November 2016 and then approved a Bill for consultation in March 2017.

Parliament considered the Bill in October 2017 after extensive conversations with Aboriginal communities and other key stakeholders.

The Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 became law on 24 October 2017.

In March 2018, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs endorsed the nine-member Aboriginal Languages Establishment Advisory Group (ALEAG). The ALEAG advises Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the establishment of the Act.

An interagency working group has also been formed with representatives from Commonwealth and State government agencies and NSW Aboriginal peak bodies to assist in the establishment of the Act.

An internal Aboriginal Affairs (AA) project group has been formed to continue the partnership with other AA Directorates and to help inform, develop and communicate the establishment phase of the Act.

AA will manage the transition stage until the Act commences.

Next steps

  • Continue conversations with NSW First peoples and other key stakeholders.
  • Work with three governance groups to establish the Trust and develop draft/initial strategic plan.

Photos from the Languages Bill Parliamentary Event


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