First Languages Australia has been commissioned by the Federal Government, Indigenous Languages and Arts program (ILA), to undertake the Priority Languages Support Project.
The program is open to languages which have speakers and some existing documentation but no current language revival activity.
The project aims to identify and document critically-endangered languages. Languages that fall within this category are in urgent need of preservation and documentation, as many of the living speakers are elderly.
First Languages Australia is working with language centres and other projects around Australia to identify and document priority languages. The Priority Languages Support Project is providing much needed financial resources to undertake this task, something that may not otherwise have been possible within current language centre constraints.
The language centres, projects and communities involved are taking various steps to document the prioritised languages. Each language team develops a work plan and a project plan detailing their proposed process and how the materials will be archived and made available for future use. While each plan is different, each group records high-quality material for the language community, that is archived at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and suitable local archives for use into the future. The production of quality user-friendly resources ready for immediate community access to assist with language revival is also a component of most activities.
First Languages Australia expects the funding body to continue its support of this project into the future and welcomes Expressions of Interest from priority language groups at any time.
To date, the project has supported thirty-nine languages:
- Ngarla (Wangga)
- Yinggarda (Yingkarta)
- Lower (Southern) Arrernte
- Magati Ke
- Marri Amu
- Wunambal Gaambera
- Jabirr Jabirr
- Wilunyu (also known as Nhanhagardi)
- Nari Nari
- Kuku Ngungkal
- Kuku Yalanji
- Uw Olgol
- Kugu Nganhcara (Kugu Uwanh and Kugu Muminh)
- Wanjuru Madjay
- Kuku Nyungkal
- Southern Pitjantjatjara
- Kala Kawaw Ya
- Mak Mak Marranunggu
- Marri Tjevin
- Injinoo Ikya
The emergency documentation gave Audrey a chance to record her language, work out what language there was, and how much was left and start promoting her language. As the last remaining speaker of Lower (Southern) Arrernte, Audrey wanted her knowledge documented while she is still able to.
Paul Monaghan, Manager, SA Mobile Language Team
Photo: Matthew Johnson, Grant Thompson, David Wilfred, Peter Wilfred, Norman Wilfred, Roy Natilma, Salome Harris documenting Ritharrŋu/Wägilak. Photographed by Nicole Bell, courtesy Ngukurr Language Centre.