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Aboriginal Languages Bill passes in New South Wales

October was an important month for Indigenous peoples of this country, and for our foundation. Bawurra has always prized itself on aiming to be a champion of our first peoples culture, stories, song lines and languages.

Language is of particular importance to traditional owners: through it, it allows stories, practices and spiritual enlightenment to pass down through generations. It is the backbone of indigenous Australian nations, and of paramount importance in our continued existence as the oldest living culture in the world.

In the last two hundred years many languages were sadly lost due to integration with settlers and the forced displacement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Many of these languages were discouraged from being spoken, so much so that it led to the extinction of many nation’s languages, and in doing so, many cultures.

However, as more progress has been made towards reconciliation in the last decade, more is being done to preserve the languages of many Indigenous nations, allowing us to have the elders of tomorrow and unite once again as a people.

On October 11 of this year, the NSW Parliament became the first state in our nation’s history to pass a bill specifically aimed at the recognition and revival of Aboriginal languages.

Around 35 different Aboriginal languages are spoken in New South Wales, with over 100 different dialects, and with the bill now passing the Senate, many including the Aboriginal Land Council hope to keep the preservation of these languages firmly in Aboriginal hands for the future of our culture.

On this important day, Mr. David Harris MP, the Member for Wyong and Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, spoke to highlight the importance of the bill, and in his speech, made special mention of the Bawurra Foundation and the importance that this bill will have in achieving our goal.

“Over the past few months I have had a lot to do with the Bawurra Foundation, in particular with co ‑ founder, managing director and proud Gamilaraay man Jesse Slock. The foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that uses technology to preserve and share Indigenous culture and help close the literacy gap” said Mr Harris.

“It is growing a digital library of Aboriginal languages, as well as Dreaming stories, art, songs, and history shared by Indigenous elders and community leaders.

“The digital library is accessed on tablet devices that are donated to school libraries in remote at-risk communities. On its most recent trip to rural communities in September, the Bawurra Foundation team reconnected with the Aboriginal community at Tingha and developed new relationships with community leaders in Moree. 

“The team spent time in the schools workshopping with teachers, hosting classroom demonstrations and participating in culture and language classes.

“The introduction of the Aboriginal languages legislation will allow Bawurra Foundation to have a lasting impact on the educational landscape of all Indigenous students. The Bawurra library is rapidly growing with rich community-made content that enables the reawakening and continuation of Aboriginal languages. To the Bawurra Foundation, this bill means giving Aboriginal people control over the future of Aboriginal languages and providing them with the tools necessary to preserve and reawaken their languages across the State.

“There is no shortage of examples of organisations and academics whose work shows support for these initiatives. Language has significance.”

Also present for this auspicious occasion was Bawurra Foundation’s co-founder and Director Alexander Stonyer-Dubinovsky.

The Foundation would like to sincerely thank all members of parliament, both past and present, who contributed on getting this bill through Parliament. We hope this can serve as an excellent starting point in acknowledging, preserving, and covering future languages for generations to come. 


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