Aboriginal Languages and cultures

AOPD supports the development and coordination of programs in the areas of Aboriginal languages and culture.

Image: Shalvey Aboriginal Dance Group, Chifley College Shalvey Campus

Aboriginal language programs in schools

The NSW Department of Education is committed to increasing the learning and teaching of Aboriginal Languages in NSW public schools. They provide advice, guidance and resources to NSW public schools to implement Aboriginal Language programs in partnership with their local Aboriginal community.

Aboriginal Language programs operate to enable Aboriginal communities to preserve, teach and use their local Aboriginal Language. Learning an Aboriginal Language provides an opportunity for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students to better understand local Aboriginal culture and helps build identity, self-esteem and resilience among Aboriginal students.

Cultural principles and protocols

When it comes to teaching and learning Aboriginal Languages and Culture, it is essential for schools to work in partnership with their local Aboriginal community, in line with their local cultural principles and protocols.

In NSW, cultural principles and protocols may differ between local Aboriginal communities. Schools should adhere to these principles and protocols when sourcing local language speakers and throughout the development and implementation of school-based learning and teaching programs to maintain and revitalise local Aboriginal language and culture.

To find out and develop more knowledge about cultural principles and protocols, schools can contact: their Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG), Aboriginal education consultants within education sectors, local Aboriginal Land Councils and/or Aboriginal language centres.

Visit the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) website to download the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander principles and protocols.

For more information read the Cultural Protocols for teaching Aboriginal Languages and Cultures fact sheet from the NSW Aboriginal Education Consultancy Group (AECG).

Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests

The NSW AECG and the Department of Education work in partnership to deliver and support the Nest initiative across the seven Nests.

The Department currently engages the NSW AECG to provide service delivery and support for the Nests.Nests provide NSW public school students with the opportunity to learn local Aboriginal Languages and cultural practices.

A Nest is a network of communities bound together by their connection through an Aboriginal Language.

A Nest Footprint is a geographical location or a designated area in which schools may access Nest funding to teach the relevant Aboriginal Language and culture under the Nest structure.

Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests are designed to provide a continuous learning pathway for Aboriginal students. The Language skills and knowledge of Aboriginal Language and culture holders and/or speakers from local Aboriginal communities is critical to the continuing development and support of teaching and learning in the Nests.

The Nests are part of a broader set of government priorities to reclaim, revoice and revitalise critically endangered Aboriginal Languages in NSW, governed by the NSW Aboriginal Languages Act 2017, the Department’s Aboriginal Education Policy and its Partnership Agreement with the NSW AECG.

The Languages, Culture and Communities team, within the Department’s Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate, is responsible for the implementation and support of the Nest initiative under these policies.

There are currently seven Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests, with the hopes to grow and expand in the future.

The Nest Footprints are located in seven regional Language areas:

  • Bundjalung (Ballina, Bonalbo, Casino, Coraki, Evans Head, Grafton, Kyogle, Lismore, Tabulam, Tweed Heads, Woodenbong and surrounds)
  • Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay/ Yuwaalayaay (Collarenebri, Goodooga, Lightning Ridge, Walgett and surrounds)
  • Gumbaynggirr (Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Dorrigo, Nambucca Valley, Northern Beaches, Orara, Sawtell, South Grafton, Toormina, Urunga and surrounds)
  • North West Wiradjuri (Dubbo, Gilgandra, Mudgee, Narromine, Peak Hill, Trangie, Wellington and surrounds)
  • Paakantji (Bourke, Broken Hill, Coomealla, Menindee, Mildura, Wilcannia and surrounds)
  • Dunghutti (Kempsey, Bellbrook, South-West Rock, Crescent Head, Walcha and surrounds)
  • Gomeroi (Tamworth, Gunnedah, Werris Creek Walhallow, Quirindi and surrounds).

Nests aim to:

  • improve knowledge of, and competency in, local Aboriginal Languages
  • strengthen Aboriginal identity, pride and community resilience
  • increase the number of Language learners
  • increase the number of Language teachers
  • contribute to increased school attendance and retention

Links to OCHRE Plan

Opportunity, Choice, Healing, Responsibility, Empowerment.

The Nests were established in 2013 under OCHRE, the community-focused plan for Aboriginal Affairs in NSW. The OCHRE plan aligns with the Department’s commitment to teach Aboriginal Languages in NSW public schools and work in partnership with the NSW AECG to ensure 'Aboriginal students are confident in their heritage, cultures and Languages'.

Aboriginal Language and Culture Officers

Each of the Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests has an Aboriginal Language and Culture Officer (ALACO). Their role includes collaborating with schools, local Aboriginal Language holders and/or speakers, NSW AECG Project Officers and Educators, and local Nest reference groups. ALACOs work to develop and implement quality Aboriginal Language programs for students across their respective Nest.

Aboriginal Language Educators

Aboriginal Language Educators are critical to the teaching and learning of Aboriginal Languages across the nest schools. Aboriginal Language tutors are local Aboriginal Language speakers, employed by NSW AECG in accordance with the NSW Department of Education’s policies and procedures. Educators are responsible for providing support to students to learn an Aboriginal Language that has been approved by the local community.

Nest Reference Groups

Nest Reference Groups are independent community bodies, separate from the Department and the NSW AECG. They meet quarterly to proactively support and set direction for the Nest initiative. They have the right to self-determination and should encourage diverse community members to participate.

Languages Outside of the Nests

The NSW Department of Education implement Language programs and initiatives for Aboriginal communities outside of the Nests. It is the Department's aim to establish community Language programs that can self-sustain over the coming years, which contribute to the revitalisation of local Aboriginal Language in communities.

Intended outcomes of Community Languages Programs are to:

  • Enhance community awareness and knowledge of Aboriginal Language and culture
  • Develop adult learning resources
  • Develop a system that encourages longevity of Community Languages

NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)

The teaching and learning of Aboriginal Languages in schools across the Nests is also supported by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).

NESA provides foundations and guidance for the teaching of Aboriginal Languages programs in schools through:


For further information contact the NSW Department of Education’s, Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships Directorate, Languages, Culture and Communities team using the following contact details:

Email: AboriginalLanguagesandCulturesCorro@det.nsw.edu.au

Further information


  • Aboriginal education

Business Unit:

  • Aboriginal Outcomes and Partnerships
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