A leading expert on Indigenous languages says non-Indigenous representative bodies and governments are not doing enough to address the overwhelming loss to First Nations languages since colonisation.
Tuesday marked the United Nations’ International Mother Language Day, held annually on February 21 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity. Al Fricker, from the National Indigenous Knowledges Education Research Innovation Institute at Deakin University says the day also highlights the dire situation of language death that Australia is currently facing.
Dr Fricker, a Dja Dja Wurrung man, said of the original 250 or so languages spoken in this country at the time of colonisation, there are only about 120 remaining. 100 of those are either endangered or critically endangered due to so few speakers.
“Globally, we account for about two per cent of Indigenous languages but we are currently contributing about nine per cent of language deaths so we’re very much over-represented in languages that are dying out,” Fricker said.
He said there needs be recognition that the excessive loss of languages in First Nations communities is a direct result of colonisation.
“There needs to be more investment in linguistic support for languages, funding language programs and encouraging training for more language teachers.”