Last changed 8 March 2017

Language policies for Australian languages

categories (by text colour): advocacy and commentary | government reports and reviews (Green Papers) | government policy (White Papers)

sections: state/territory | national | international | other countries

state / territory


Recognising and protecting NSW Aboriginal languages. with link to DGS161625-LANGUAGES-LAUNCH-INFORMATION-SESSION.pdf of 21 Nov 2016 * "Aboriginal Affairs will hold a community workshop in December 2016 to further refine the legislative proposal, initiate development of the first strategic plan for Aboriginal languages, and begin outlining the form and function of a NSW Aboriginal Language Centre."

The NSW Board of Studies Teaching and Education Standards (BOSTES) has research materials and guides for teaching Aboriginal languages in schools and the 2015 Stage 6 Aboriginal Languages course

OCHRE: opportunity, choice, healing, responsibility, empowerment. NSW Government Plan for Aboriginal affairs. *  launched on 5 April 2013 * first aim 'Teach more Aboriginal language and culture to build people’s pride and identity', establish Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests (Executive Summary,
following 'Ministerial Taskforce on Aboriginal Affairs Final Report. March 2013.'

Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests under OCHRE

In 2011, Aboriginal Affairs commissioned an Aboriginal languages research project where Dr Shayne Williams explored the connection between the teaching of Aboriginal languages and culture and the benefits to community well-being and engagement with the education system links to the papers (20 pages, March 2012) and (175 pages, Jan 2012)

NSW Aboriginal Languages Research and Resource Centre (The Languages Centre), now defunct; was part of the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs, founded 2003; was at until 2013; archived at
For a time the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Inc was auspice for its successor, the Council for Aboriginal Languages Coordination and Development; then the Aboriginal community language support functions were returned to Aboriginal Affairs, including the Our Languages, Our Way grants program

The first state Aboriginal Languages Policy (NSW DAA), dated 24 May 2004

Aboriginal Languages Project, following the release of the Aboriginal Languages K-10 Syllabus in 2003
linked from

Senator Aden Ridgeway interview, 2003?

Kevin Lowe. 2001. The Need for Community Consultation to assist in the Development of Aboriginal Language Programs in schools: A Draft Discussion Paper. The full version of the extract that appeared in Voice of the Land 20 (November 2001),9,11.


Western Australia

Graham McKay. 2008. WA Aboriginal Languages Policy - Discussion Paper. 26 May 2008. Department of Indigenous Affairs Western Australia. (PDF 1.5MB) Attachments (PDF 1.1MB) * presented at Pre-conference forum, 1 October 2009, The Esplanade Hotel, Fremantle hosted by Australian Council of Adult Literacy (ACAL)

Aboriginal Education Operational Plan 2005-2008

Curriculum Council, with mission "To set curriculum policy directions for kindergarten to year 12 schooling in Western Australia"

Network of Aboriginal language centres : Submisson on the Draft State Sustainability Strategy

South Australia

Eira, Christina & Mary-Anne Gale. 2007. Language policy and language programs in South Australia. PowerPoint® presentation, to Victorian Indigenous Languages Policy and Development Workshop, Melbourne, March 2007

Curriculum Portal - Learning Australian Indigenous languages

Curriculum, Standards and Accountability (SACSA) Framework - section about languages Accessed April 2007. (Draft dated May 2002)


In March 2007 the Victorian government announced its first step towards a policy on Indigenous languages

The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages coordinates Community Language Programs throughout Victoria.


Dixon, Sally. 2004. Ecological perspectives on language policy and language planning theory: towards a critical understanding of language planning in the Torres Strait Islands. Submitted for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics) (Honours), School of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, The University of NSW. 115pp. * copy at AIATSIS Library

'The Future of Indigenous Languages in Queensland schools', October 2003 (a comprehensive overview)

Northern Territory

Lee, Penny, Lyn Fasoli, Lysbeth Ford, Peter Stephenson & Dennis McInerney. 2014. Indigenous kids and schooling in the Northern Territory. An introductory overview and brief history of Aboriginal Education in the Northern Territory. 236 pages, $38. Batchelor Press. ISBN 978-1-74131-319-2 * 299 page PDF

Bruce Wilson, The Education Business. 2014. Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory. DRAFT REPORT. 167 page PDF

postings and resource documents at Friends of Bilingual Learning Google Group * 'Supporters of Bilingual & Multilingual education, living and learning in the Northern Territory.'

Literacy for both worlds. January 2011. 2 pages. DET File: 2008/2492 Doc2010/08120. NT Department of Education and Training. Policies * withdrawn by 1 February 2011

Compulsory teaching in English for the first four hours of each school day. January 2009. 2 pages. DET File: 2008/2492 DOC2009/00508 NT Department of Education and Training. Policies

Simpson, Jane, Jo Caffery, and Patrick McConvell. 2009. Gaps in Australia's Indigenous language policy: dismantling bilingual education in the Northern Territory. AIATSIS Research Discussion Paper 24, June 2009

Learning Lessons: The Implementation Phase. Status Report. Learning Lessons Implementation Steering Committee. October 2005

2006 - Department of Employment, Education and Training. Indigenous Languages and Culture in NT Schools: Report 2004-05
(includes Appendix D 'Indigenous language and culture policies in other jurisdictions' 4pp. unnumbered)
Executive Summary

2002 Indigenous Languages and Culture, pp.483-554 of NT Curriculum Framework

1999 - Northern Territory Department of Education. Learning Lessons: An Independent Inquiry into Aboriginal Education in the Northern Territory. NT Government Printer (conducted by Tess Lea and Bob Collins) 1.6MB PDF

ATSIC Submission to the ['Collins'] Review into Aboriginal Education in the Northern Territory. [1999?]

Neil Chadwick. 1977. Language politics in the Northern Territory. Presented to the Linguistic Society of Australia, Sat 27 August 1977, University of Melbourne. Abstract (p.8) in conference programme in LSAus Newsletter.

O'Grady, Geoffrey N & Ken Hale. 1975. Recommendations concerning bilingual education in the Northern Territory. Parliamentary paper ; no. 329 of 1974. Canberra: Govt. Printer. ISBN 0642931275. * Recommendations reprinted in appendix to 'Critical reflections on the history of bilingual education in Central Australia' by​ Robert Hoogenraad, in Forty years on : Ken Hale and Australian languages, 2001.

Australian Capital Territory

The ACT Multicultural Strategy 2010–2013 was tabled in the ACT Legislative Assembly in December 2009. Included in the ‘Languages’ focus area of the Strategy is a commitment by the ACT Government to develop and implement a whole-of-government language policy by 2012

'Languages for all Canberrans. Discussion Paper for ACT Languages Policy.' Office of Multicultural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs  (PDF 448kB) * following the 2005 and 2008 Multicultural Summits

The Way Forward. Multicultural Summit - Summary. 10 December 2005. p.11 'Language Policy' suggestions.

ACT Languages Policy. Draft paper for discussion. December 1994. Canberra: ACT Government (Social Policy Branch, Chief Minister's Department). 28pp. See ß3, pp.17-18.

Norfolk Island

"While English is the official language of Norfolk Island, recognition has also been given to ‘Norf’k’, a mixture of 18th Century English and Tahitian, brought to the island by the Pitcairners. The Norfolk Island Language (Norf’k) Act 2004 not only recognised Norf’k but affirmed ‘the right of the people to speak and write it freely and without interference or prejudice from government or other persons’. The Act also allows for Norf’k to be taught in school. UNESCO has recognised the language following a submission by the Norfolk Island Government. The significance of the language policy is that it identifies and recognises a unique cultural element, provides identity and emphasizes the island’s ‘special cultural values’."
Turner, Mark. 2007. Norfolk Island / Australia. Kreddha Autonomy Mapping Project.

national (newer to older)

Indigenous Engagement with Science: towards deeper understandings. Report prepared by the Expert Working Group Indigenous Engagement with Science. August 2013. * "to consider the ways in which Indigenous Australians would benefit from more engagement with the sciences, and the ways in which the sciences could benefit from more engagement with Indigenous Australians." * 'Indigenous languages—storehouses of knowledge', pages 8-9.

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. 2012. Our land our languages: Language learning in Indigenous communities. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Statement to the Australian Government on the Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities. National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. 11 pages. December 2011.

Inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities. House of Representatives Standing Committee on
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.
Referred 5 July 2011.

National Cultural Policy discussion paper. August 2011. Office for the Arts. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. * refers to National Indigenous Languages Policy

'What is the status of the implementation of the Government’s National Indigenous Languages Policy (the Policy)?' Senate: Questions without Notice: answered Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. Social Justice Report 2009. Chapter 3: The perilous state of Indigenous languages in Australia * 'sets out evidence demonstrating that there are benefits associated with preserving Indigenous languages and consequential costs associated with losing them. The chapter also sets out a course of action aimed at preserving and reviving Indigenous languages'

Australian Government Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Indigenous Languages - A National Approach, The importance of Australia's Indigenous languages. (from September 2009) * reproduced in Appendix 3 to the Social Justice Report 2009

Purdie, Nola. 2009. A way forward for Indigenous languages. ACER Research Developments Vol. 21, Article 2. * considers strategies for strengthening the quality of Indigenous languages programs in schools

Purdie, Nola, Tracey Frigo, Clare Ozolins, Geoff Noblett, Nick Thieberger, Janet Sharp. 2008. Indigenous languages programmes in Australian schools : A way forward. Australian Council for Educational Research. the former Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training through the Australian Government’s School Languages Programme. xvii+228pp.

Noel Pearson, Native tongues imperilled, The Australian, March 10, 2007,20867,21352767-7583,00.html
* includes his seven "points about language policy"

DCITA (Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) "The Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records (MILR) program supports policies and community initiatives to preserve and maintain Indigenous languages."
See 'Strategy and Action Plan 2007–08', Attachment A pp.14-17 in
'Program information and guidelines 2007–08' available in Word and PDF formats

DCITA MILR publications, including

The National Indigenous Languages (NILS) Survey Report (2005) (AIATSIS/FATSIL) (2.6MB PDF) via
Economic Costs and Benefits of Australian Indigenous Languages (2004) (Peter Muhlhausler and Richard Damania) pointing to

Plan 2005-2008 based on 2004 report of Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) from National Statement and Plan on Languages Education in Australian Schools page

DEST (Department of Education, Science and Training) policies, issues and reviews relating to Indigenous education
including National Goals for Indigenous Education (page last modified Tue, 24 Apr 2007 3:58:35 PM)
"17.     To develop programs to support the maintenance and continued us[e] of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages."

Lo Bianco, J. 2004. A site for debate, negotiation and contest of national identity: language policy in Australia. 35 pages. Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe: From linguistic diversity to plurilingual education.  Strasbourg: Council of Europe. (French and English)

Dixon, Sally. 2004. Ecological perspectives on language policy and language planning theory: towards a critical understanding of language planning in the Torres Strait Islands. Submitted for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts (Linguistics) (Honours), School of Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, The University of NSW * Chapter 1 'Language Policy in Australia: towards a critical theory', pp.3-42 * copy at AIATSIS Library

Lester Irabinna Rigney. 2002. Bread versus freedom - Treaty and stabilising Indigenous Languages. Presented to National Treaty Conference.

Review of the Australian Government Languages Other than English Programme (LOTE) - Report. Commonwealth of Australia, 2002,_it_is_recommended_that:

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP) (page created 2001-12-19, modified 8 Aug 2005, modified 31 October 2007 3:09:37 PM)

Lo Bianco, Joseph, and Rosie Wickert (eds). 2001. Australian policy activism in language and literacy. Melbourne: Language Australia. 6.6MB PDF at ERIC #:ED471603 * introduction "Activists and Policy" (LoBianco, Wickert) * Part 1, pp.13-44, "From policy to anti-policy:  How fear of language rights took policy-making out of community hands" (LoBianco): tracks Australian language and literacy policy * "Advocating the sustainability of linguistic diversity" (Michael Singh)

Hammond, Jennifer. 2001. Literacies in school education in Australia: disjunctions between policy and research. Language and Education Vol. 15, No. 2&3.

FATSIL Indigenous Language Policy Statement and Strategic Plan objectives summarised in Voice of the Land 16.1(2001).

Recognition Rights and Reform - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (AUSTLII)
Part of Reconciliation and Social Justice Library. Page created Mon, 3 Jul 2000 2:32:51 PM

State of Indigenous languages in Australia - 2001, by P. McConvell and N. Thieberger. State of the Environment Second Technical Paper Series (Natural and Cultural Heritage), Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. ISBN 0 642 54871 4

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Recommendations 55, 56, 188

Janke, Terri. 1998. Our Culture: Our Future: Report on Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights. Prepared for Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. © Michael Frankel & Company and Terri Janke.  2.5MB

Commonwealth Literacy Policy: Literacy for All: The Challenge for Australian Schools. Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DEETYA), 1998. Commonwealth Literacy Policies for Australian Schools. Australian Schooling Monograph Series No. 1/1998
ß5.3 Indigenous Students:

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP): Indigenous Education Strategic Initiatives Programme (IESIP) : revised administrative guidelines, third triennium 1997-1999 (June 1998) Dept. of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. * "These guidelines, approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs set out the objectives, administrative requirements and funding arrangements under IESIP for the third triennium of the AEP, being 1997-99" -p.6.

Indigenous Languages component (esp. pp.19-20,77-86) of State of the Environment: Environmental Indicators for national state of environment reporting - Natural and Cultural Heritage, by M Pearson, D Johnston, J Lennon, I McBryde, D Marshall, D Nash & B Wellington. State of Environment (Environmental Indicator Reports), Environment Australia, Department of the Environment, Canberra, 1998. ISBN 0 642 54528 6 of the series 0 642 54526 X

Language and Literacy: Australia's Fundamental Resource, prepared by Language Australia. Authors: Joseph Lo Bianco, Pauline Bryant, Richard B. Baldauf. National Board of Employment, Education and Training, Australian Research Council, Discipline Research Strategies. June 1997. ISBN 0642236550

McKay, Graham R. 1996. The land still speaks: review of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language maintenance and development needs and activities. Canberra: Australian Govt. Pub. Service. xxvii+290pp. Commissioned Report No. 44. (Australia. National Board of Employment, Education and Training). ISBN 064445945X xxvii+290pp.

Lo Bianco, Joseph. Pluralist Nations: Pluralist Language Policies? Presented to 1995 Global Cultural Diversity Conference Proceedings, Sydney. (Chief Executive, The National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia Limited)

Culture and Heritage: Indigenous Languages by John Henderson and David Nash. State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Natural and Cultural Heritage), Series 1, Department of the Environment and Heritage. To January 1995. (was

Ozolins cover Ozolins, Uldis. 1993. The politics of language in Australia. Cambridge University Press. * reviewed by Mari Rhydwen, Oceania 64.3(March 1994), 274 *  'The National Language Policy issued in Australia'. Pacific Linguistics (1985) Series C-92; pp. 281-9.

Government response to the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language maintenance report, "A matter of survival", June 1992.
Date of Government Response: 17/12/1992

Language and culture : a matter of survival : report of the inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language maintenance June 1992. Parliament - House of Representatives. Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (HoRSCATSIA). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. * Parliamentary Paper Number 164/1992, Date Tabled: 25/06/1992

Appendix 7: Recommendations from the National Aboriginal Languages Workshop "Our Language, Our Future", 12th & 13th December 1991, Adelaide SA.

White Paper response - PALC.  Wangka Maya. 14pp.  Text posted to peg:aust.languages 2:28 pm  Oct 25, 1991.  Archived in file '16 Wangka Maya response' in ASEDA item 0380.

NPL cover ALLP: Australia's Language: The Australian Language and Literacy Policy, by John Dawkins, Minister for Employment Education and Training. Announced 2 September 1991. Canberra: AGPS, 1993. * "The White Paper was released in early September 1991 and announced a national policy and a national strategy to promote language and literacy in Australia through the Australian Language and Literacy Policy (ALLP)."

Dept. of Employment, Education and Training. The language of Australia; discussion paper on an Australian literacy and language policy for the 1990s. Canberra : Australian Government Publishing Service, December 1990, 2 v. in 1 * "The Green Paper on a draft Australian Language and Literacy Policy was released in December 1990"

Riley-Mundine, Lynette, and Bryn Roberts (Pitman Roberts and Partners). 1990. Review of National Aboriginal Languages Program. AACLAME Occasional Paper Number 5. Australian Advisory Council on Languages and Multicultural Education, Canberra. Scanned as 2.6MB PDF available as ERIC #:ED355757 at * National Aboriginal Languages Project 1988-90, became National Aboriginal Languages Program (DEET)

NPL coverNPL: Lo Bianco, Joseph. 1987. National Policy on Languages. Commonwealth Department of Education. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN-13 978-0644061186 * extracted highlights: * Ministerial announcement of policy, 15 December 1987 * comment: "Australia's education and training system has also responded to the changing ethnic composition of our population. A system of language training was put in place to provide migrants with access. Community languages were integrated into school curricula and became an important national resource. In 1987 the Federal Government adopted a National Policy on Languages, becoming the first English speaking country to have such a policy and the first in the world to have a multilingual languages policy" p.29 of CFAC. 1994. 2001: A Report from Australia: a report to the Council of Australian Governments by the Centenary of Federation Advisory Committee. Canberra: AGPS. [quoted ]

Select Committee on Aboriginal Education. Report. Parliamentary Paper Number 357/85 Date Tabled: 26/11/1985
Date of Government Response: 6/06/1991: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy (AEP) launched 26 October 1989

NPL coverParliament - Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts ; Malcolm Arthur Colston, Chairman. October 1984. Report on a national language policy. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. Cat. No. 8505820 * Recommendations

Fesl, Eve D. 1983. Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts on a National Language Policy. iii+178pp. AIATSIS Library MS 4156.

Bell, Jeanie (ed.) 1982. Language planning for Australian Aboriginal languages: papers presented at the Workshop to Develop Aboriginal Leadership in Language Planning, Alice Springs, 16-20 February, 1981. Alice Springs, NT; Institute for Aboriginal Development.

A useful glossary of acronyms (at 1992):

Language Australia has closed, the former National Languages and Literacy Institute of Australia Ltd. (NLLIA); some of the operations of its Melbourne Office are now run through CAE (Centre for Adult Education) in Melbourne.

Literacy: A Chronology of Selected Research and Commonwealth Policy Initiatives Since 1975. Canberra, Department of the Parliamentary Library, Social Policy Group. 7 December 1999.

Australian Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights (site dormant in recent years)

international (newer to older)

For general news on language policy worldwide, see LGPOLICY-LIST, and the Consortium for Language Policy and Planning

United Nations. Human Rights Council. 23 June 2006. Recommendation to the UN General Assembly for the adoption of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. See Article 14 Language, Article 15 Education, and Article 17 Media.,

Building stronger communities: Indigenous Australian rights in education and language by Lester Irabinna Rigney/FATSIL
A submission to the Working Group on Indigenous Populations of a UN subcommission on Human Rights
full version of an article that appeared in Voice of the Land 21 (March 2002), 8-9

Romaine, Suzanne. 2002. The Impact of language policy on endangered languages. International Journal on Multicultural Societies Vol. 4, No. 2 ISSN 1564-4901 © UNESCO.

Luisa Maffi. 1999. Building the Tools: toward the integrated protection of indigenous languages and Knowledge as part of indigenous heritage. Terralingua Discussion Paper #14

UNESCO. 1998. The Oslo Recommendation Regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities and Explanatory Note. * available through Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, adopted by the 1996 World Conference of Linguistic Rights, Barcelona, communicated to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

other countries

New Zealand's Māori Language Act enacted April 2016 gives Māori language official status in New Zealand, meaning Te Reo Māori can be used to conduct business, in legal proceedings, and on signs and official notices. The Act creates Te Mātāwai, an organisation made up of government and Māori language stakeholders to lead language revitalisation activities.

Maori Language Act 1987 (previously at referred in places to Welsh Language Act 1967 (U.K.)

Linguistic Rights - National Constitutions, Management of Social Transformations (MOST) Programme Clearing House, UNESCO

Regional and minority languages of the European Union

Acknowledgements: incorporating suggestions from (newest to earliest) Anthony Seiver (Principal Policy Officer, NSW Aboriginal Affairs), Bruce Reyburn, John White, Jason Lee, Adriano Truscott, Melanie Gillbank, Christina Eira <ceira AT>, Mary-Anne Gale, Rob Amery, Jane Simpson, and David Nathan's Language rights & policy links in his World Wide Web Virtual Library; also from some of the sources listed in my links and resources on Endangered Languages and language documentation (to 2005)

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© 2016 David Nash

Page created 2007
Last changed 8 March 2017