Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 13 September 2017) . . Page.. 3609 ..
In 1999 UNESCO proclaimed 21 February as International Mother Language Day. In February this year it was my privilege to gather with other non-native speakers of English and those who support linguistic diversity to participate in the International Mother Language Day walk. We met up under the international flags along Queen Elizabeth Terrace and proceeded together to Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park. As fantastic as this event was, it would be good for us here in Canberra to formally observe this day as a means of promoting and protecting all languages used in our territory.
I wholeheartedly endorse this motion by Mr Coe, along with its attendant recommendations, including supporting second language instruction in schools, promoting and revitalising the use of local Indigenous languages, supporting the construction of a monument and utilising libraries to further these worthy goals. I commend this motion to the Assembly.
Mrs Kikkert then spoke in Tongan.
Translation: Many thanks.
MR MILLIGAN (Yerrabi) (11.40): I thank Mr Coe for bringing forward this important motion. I want to talk today about the importance of the recognition of their language to the Indigenous community, why it is important to work towards the revitalisation and maintenance of their language and why we need to include it for second language instruction in our schools. I begin by acknowledging that this year is in fact the year for Indigenous language recognition. The 2017 national NAIDOC Week theme was “Our languages matter”. Throughout Australia during July we were reminded of the importance, resilience and richness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
Why are languages so important to the Indigenous peoples? They matter as they are a primary way to safeguard and preserve their cultural identity. Language links Indigenous people to their land and water, which is in an expression of their cultural identity and assists with the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites through their stories and songs. So it is vital that we consider again the significance of preserving that language, and that we work towards its preservation, revitalisation and maintenance.
There are several local languages and dialects in Canberra, one of which is the Ngunnawal language. In a visit to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, I was interested to learn of the work being carried out to preserve this language. The revitalisation of the Ngunnawal language has formed a major project for the institute since 2014. The institute has been working closely with several Indigenous families and corporations to not only revitalise the language but also develop a language program for primary schools. But I am told that the work has stalled. I call on the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to move beyond the tokenism that is so often associated with the actions of this government in this space, to promote and support the revitalisation project both financially and through active facilitation.