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The first languages of NSW

The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Sarah Mitchell, will today introduce a landmark bill to the NSW Parliament.

The Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017 – the first of its kind in Australia – officially acknowledges the importance of language to Aboriginal culture and establishes a new independent body, governed by Aboriginal people, to facilitate and support activities to reawaken, nurture and grow Aboriginal languages.

A special ceremony at Parliament House in Sydney to mark the introduction of the bill will be webcast live today through the Parliament website, from 11am to 1.30pm.

The Bill is the culmination of years of work by Aboriginal Affairs NSW, working in partnership with Aboriginal people and communities around the state. It will ensure continued government support for the first languages of NSW.

The Bill includes a preamble that acknowledges:

  • The languages of the First Peoples of New South Wales are an integral part of the world's oldest living culture and connect Aboriginal people to each other and to their land.
  • As a result of past government decisions, Aboriginal languages were almost lost but were spoken in secret and passed on through Aboriginal families and communities.
  • Aboriginal people will be reconnected with their culture and heritage by the growth and nurturing of Aboriginal languages.
  • Aboriginal languages are part of the cultural heritage of all people in New South Wales.
  • Aboriginal people are the custodians of Aboriginal languages and have the right to control their growth and nurture.

The Bill establishes a statutory trust to advise the NSW Government, to resource and coordinate local language activities, and to empower NSW First Peoples to teach and direct the teaching and use of languages within government institutions.

From preschool all the way through to the HSC, thousands of public school students are now learning languages including Wiradjuri, Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung, Paakantji and Gamilaraay. By embedding Aboriginal language in our schools, we reinforce to students and community members that we are proud of NSW's First Peoples' heritage and believe in nurturing it for future generations.

There is more information about the Aboriginal Languages Bill 2017 on the Aboriginal Affairs NSW website.

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Mark Scott

About the Secretary

Mark Scott is Secretary of the Department of Education. He has worked as a teacher, in public administration and as a journalist and media executive. He is committed to public education and learning environments where every child can flourish.

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