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Strengthening Australian languages: between policy and practice

The AIATSIS Centre for Australian Languages (ACAL) is proud to announce the release of a new report ‘Strengthening Australian languages: between policy and practice’, Report on the Language Policy Symposium, 26–27 September 2022.

Prior to colonisation, hundreds of Indigenous languages were spoken in Australia. Just over two centuries later, only around 12 of these languages are still being acquired by children as their mother tongue from birth and spoken as their main language.

Government policies since colonisation have been a major factor in forcing this dramatic shift. Unfortunately, positive and nuanced policy supporting the diversity of Indigenous language speakers and learners has been lacking in recent decades. Given the fact that government policies have been instrumental in disrupting the learning and use of traditional Indigenous languages and causing language shift, we need to consider how policies can now be used to ensure the full range of speakers and learners of all Indigenous languages are recognised and supported so their languages flourish into the future.

2 Language Policy Symposium Cover

You can read the report here

On 26–27 September 2022, AIATSIS co-hosted a Language Policy Symposium with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL) in Canberra. The theme of the symposium was: ‘strengthening Australian languages: between policy and practice’. The event brought together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language workers from across Australia to share their experiences strengthening and supporting their languages with one another, with policy makers and with other stakeholders.

In this report, we synthesise key themes that emerged from the various presentations, amplifying Indigenous voices and providing guidance to Australian policymakers and the public.

You can learn more about the event and access copies of selected presentations at or contact ACAL at

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Last updated: 20 May 2024