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Recognising the Pivotal Role of Language Professionals

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) CEO Craig Ritchie says the UN International Translation Day highlights the critical work being done by language professionals in fostering understanding, wellbeing and the cultural resurgence of First Nations Australians.

“The UN’s International Translation Day recognises the pivotal role of language professionals in providing a range of expertise, knowledge and skills in reclamation programmes.”

“Languages are a powerful instrument, they are fundamental in understanding, diversity, shared dialogue and cultural resurgence.

The latest National Indigenous Languages Report (NILR) shows Indigenous language speakers were more likely to report significantly higher positive emotional wellbeing – feeling happy and motivated – than English-only speakers. This is particularly pronounced in areas where Indigenous languages are widely spoken.

Mr Ritchie who is also the Co-Chair of the UNESCO Steering Committee preparing for the International Decade of Indigenous Languages says there are profound benefits for individuals and communities through supporting language revitalisation.

“First Nations People do not have enough access to education in their first language or the language of their Country. Providing this access, but supporting language professionals and building critical infrastructure, like dictionaries, has a profound impact on the social, health, education and economic outcomes for First Nations people and their communities.”

“No language is lost. We can, and have, brought languages back into use. Where there is sufficient documentation languages can be reawakened. As we head in to the UN Decade of Indigenous Languages from 2022, I hope to see more languages awoken and brought back in to everyday use.”

NILR is a critical audit of Indigenous languages, providing basis for policy development and service delivery. It is a joint project between AIATSIS, The Australian National University (ANU) and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications. It contains the results of the Third National Indigenous Languages Survey conducted by AIATSIS and a detailed study of the linkages by The ANU of speaking language and better health and wellbeing.