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Strengthening WA Aboriginal Languages

Rhiannon Clarke -

The WA Network of Aboriginal Language Centres expressed gratitude this week for the recent WA government funding that will help them in their mission to preserve and promote Aboriginal languages.

The Network, consisting of six language centres spanning the Kimberley, Pilbara, Midwest, and Perth regions, plays a vital role in achieving Closing the Gap Target 16 by ensuring the growth and vitality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Program Manager at the Bundiyarra Irra Wangga Language Centre, Zain Laudehr-May, said it is vital to support, empower and invest in the work that Aboriginal people and communities are doing to keep their Aboriginal languages strong.

“Whilst many First Nations languages in Western Australia remain strong, many are under threat, time is not on our side as Elders pass away and language stops being spoken," he said.

With the disappearance of every language, not only is valuable thinking, culture, and tradition lost, but also important environmental, technological, social, and economic knowledge. This results in a significant loss of Indigenous history and a diminished understanding of the world for all Australians. 

The WA Network of Aboriginal Language Centres mission to preserve and promote Aboriginal languages. (Image: supplied)

The Network said that funding support is essential to establish a dedicated secretariat that will facilitate collaboration among the Centres, promote knowledge sharing, and engage with the government to develop necessary strategies and policies for the preservation of strong languages.

“In the longer term we would like to establish a peak body for WA Aboriginal Languages, providing an ongoing vehicle to support language maintenance and revitalisation,” said Mr Laudehr-May.

“The Commonwealth Indigenous Languages and Arts funding supports the work of the language Centres.

“Commonwealth funding is predominantly project based and does not include funding for this important collective initiative."

“This state government support will be a game-changer for the way that we can all work together to support Aboriginal people and communities across Western Australia to keep languages strong.”

Kimberley Language Resource Centre from the Network manger Lee-Anne Smith said Aboriginal language plays a crucial role in preserving culture and identity, regardless of whether individuals speak an Aboriginal language or not.

“Research shows that investment in language provides economic benefits and opportunities, builds social capital, supports cultural identification and participation and supports positive emotional health," she said.

The six language centres are Bundiyarra Irra Wangga Language Centre in Geraldton, Kimberley Language Resource Centre in Halls Creek, Mirima Dawang Woorlab-gerring Kununurra, Noongar Boodja Language Centre in Perth, Mabu Yawuru Ngan-ga in Broome, and Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre in South Hedland.

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