Aboriginal Languages (NAIDOC 2017)



(Full sized poster can be found at http://www.naidoc.org.au/sites/default/files/assets/files/G00253b-e.pdf )

NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee. NAIDOC Week is held in the first full week of July.

NAIDOC Week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to their country. The theme for NAIDOC 2017 is “Our Languages Matter”.

“Our Languages Matter” aims to celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

Some 250 distinct Indigenous language groups were found in Australia at the time of the European contact in the late eighteenth century. Most of these languages would have had several dialects, so that the total number of named varieties would have run to many hundreds. Today only around 120 of those languages are still spoken and many are at risk of being lost.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait languages are not just a means of communication, they express knowledge about everything:  law, geography, history, family and human relationships, philosophy, religion, anatomy, childcare, health, caring for country, astronomy, biology and food.

Each language is associated with an area of land and has a deep spiritual significance and it is through their own languages, that Indigenous nations maintain their connection with their ancestors, land and law” (Anne Martin, National NAIDOC Committee Co-Chair).


(adapted from http://www.naidoc.org.au/2017-national-naidoc-theme)

Aboriginal languages



  1. Read more about Aboriginal languages in the links below. Then make a presentation on  one of the following topics:
  • Aboriginal languages – past and present.

Compare the situation as it was before the European settlement and the situation now.

  • Language and identity.

Discuss how Aboriginal languages are important for Aborginal identity both in past times and today. Discuss what challenges there are in modern times.







2. Discuss these questions:

a. How does language form identity? If you speak more than one language, do you feel that your identity changes depending on which language you speak?  Why/ why not?

b. Are there certain words or concepts in the language you speak that are not found in other languages? What are they? Are they linked to special cultural activities or ideas that are only found in your culture?

c. If someone in authority announced that you could never speak your language again and would be punished if you did, how would that make you feel? What do you think would be hardest to deal with?

d. If you could never speak your language again, which parts of your culture do you think would be lost? Which do you think you could maintain?

e. Can you relate your answers to a-d to what has happened historically to indigenous peoples in Australia and elsewhere? (you could compare what happened in Australia to what happened with the Sami in Norway).



Say G’Day in an Indigenous Language (Queensland)

(source: http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au/jol/2014/07/03/say-gday-in-an-indigenous-language/


For more information on Aboriginal languages, check out the language map at https://gambay.com.au/map