Page 3610 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 13 September 2017

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Why is it that supporting their language is so important? Indigenous communities maintain their cultural heritage by passing on their knowledge from one generation to the next, through speaking and teaching their languages. They identify themselves through their connection to their country, through their relationship to each other and through their language and stories. Language then becomes an important part of maintaining those connections to culture. Yet recent statistics from the NATSIS survey showed that only 26 per cent of Indigenous children in areas such as Canberra spoke an Indigenous language, and sometimes this was only a few words.

The same survey states that to make a difference in educational, employment and training outcomes, and to lower engagement with high-risk and antisocial behaviours, Indigenous children need to be connected to their community, their culture and so, most importantly, to their local language. Particularly in the early years of a child’s life, the investment in culture is critically important. It provides children—and their families and communities—with social and emotional benefits. There was evidence that this investment strengthened communities, bridged cultural divides, fostered resilience and contributed to reconciliation—all the necessary attributes that lead to closing the gap and improving outcomes for Indigenous communities.

In 2015 the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies worked with Indigenous leaders and the primary school in Fraser to run a pilot program of teaching the Ngunnawal language to preschool children. It would be great to see this project continue, for the government to sponsor the creation of local language dictionaries in Ngunnawal, Walgalu and Ngarigu. It would be great to see the development of children’s books in all the Indigenous languages in ACT schools.

The work here in the ACT is only in its infancy. Seeing the large collection of artefacts, books, stories and songs in the Pitjantjatjara language at the National Museum, and knowing that there are summer schools that anyone can attend to learn this language, it would be great to see that here in the ACT. It would be terrific if the revitalisation of the mother languages of the local Indigenous people could lead to the teaching of them in the ACT as a second language, alongside the more traditional European and Asian languages. I therefore call on the government to support the active participation, revitalisation and maintenance of the local Indigenous languages for future inclusion as a second language option for schoolchildren.

MS BERRY (Ginninderra—Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Minister for Housing and Suburban Development, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Minister for Women and Minister for Sport and Recreation) (11.45): I thank Mr Coe for bringing this motion to the Assembly today and giving us a chance to talk about our inclusive Canberra. I also thank the Minister for Multicultural Affairs for outlining the importance of and support for our city’s multilingual way of life.

Canberra has a really great record as being an inclusive and vibrant community which is deeply connected by our value of diversity. The government’s support of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s proclamation of 21 February each year as International Mother

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