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 The AIATSIS Indigenous Australian Languages Collection includes published and unpublished material across a range of formats such as print, manuscript, audio and audio visual, posters, maps, serials and born digital.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.
OzBib is a bibliography of published works and theses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
Dictionaries play an important role in language preservation and revitalisation, both in schools and communities. AIATSIS has launched a project to support the publication of Indigenous language dictionaries. The project aims to identify dictionaries that are in an advanced stage of development, and work with the language communities to support their publication.
National Indigenous Languages Survey
AIATSIS conducts surveys in collaboration with the Department of Communications and the ANU to investigate the current state of Australian Indigenous languages. The surveys are designed to collect information about the numbers of speakers, the age, gender and distributions of speakers, and how languages are used. There have been three national surveys; the last survey was conducted in 2019.
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.