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Languages at AIATSIS

Most of the estimated 250 Australian languages and 600-700 dialects are represented in our unrivalled language holdings. The AIATSIS Indigenous Australian Languages Collection includes published and unpublished material across a range of formats such as print, manuscript, audio and audio visual, posters, maps, serials and born digital. These include genres such as grammatical descriptions and dictionaries, transcriptions of spoken texts, language learning resources, vernacular literacy development, religious texts and other literature, all covering contemporary and historical works.

In 2009 a subset of this Collection, 3700 published books, were placed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register. This number has since grown to over 4300 titles.

Our projects and activities aim to:

  • support language maintenance and revitalisation programs
  • improve understanding about our language collection
  • support emerging linguists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous
  • facilitate the archiving of Indigenous languages collection items
  • develop and maintain language resources and databases
  • inform Government policy through current research
  • deliver activities that raise the profile and status of Indigenous languages in the wider community.

Our research is conducted in partnership with other research institutions, Indigenous regional alliances, Indigenous representative and corporate bodies, communities and individuals.

Paper and Talk

AIATSIS runs a program that connects custodians of Australian languages with materials held in national archives. Project participants learn practical skills in linguistics and exploring archives so that they can develop language resources to assist with strengthening or revitalising their languages.

Paper and Talk group at AIATSIS

In early September 2019, AIATSIS worked with fifteen community researchers from five language groups; the Yorta Yorta (Vic/NSW), Wergaia (Vic), Anaiwan (NSW), Wakka Wakka (Qld) and Ngunnawal (ACT/NSW). The researchers delved into archives at AIATSIS, the National Library of Australia and other institutions, discovering and reconnecting with family histories, cultural information and descriptions of their languages.