Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Switzerland, Liechtenstein


Human Rights Council – 18th Session

Panel on the Role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the well-being and identity of indigenous peoples.

20 September 2011

Australia is pleased to participate in this panel discussion and welcomes the participation of Lester Coyne as a panellist. The Government was pleased to be able to facilitate his attendance here today.

In keeping with our steadfast commitment to improve the active participation of Indigenous peoples worldwide, Australia is pleased to take the opportunity today to announce that it will contribute $100,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations. This is in addition to funding already provided by Australia, through the Australian Human Rights Commission, for participation by Australia’s Indigenous communities.

In 2005, a National Indigenous Languages Survey found that of the original number of over 250 known Indigenous languages, only about 145 were still spoken in Australia and the vast majority of these were critically endangered.

The loss of Indigenous languages is of great concern to the Australian Government. In 2009, the Government announced the National Indigenous Languages Policy to reinforce the use of critically endangered Indigenous languages; restore the use of rarely spoken or unspoken Indigenous languages; and support the teaching of Indigenous languages.

Underpinning this policy is the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records (MILR) program. The program promotes the maintenance and revival of Indigenous languages and aims to address the loss of these languages by providing funding to support community based projects by language groups, language research and coordination of language resources.

The MILR program also supports the use of information technologies and new media For example, the MILR program is funding a project that is recording the endangered language of Iwaidja, and producing bilingual resources in digital and print form, including developing a bilingual dictionary and phrasebook application in Iwaidja and English downloadable from iTunes for use on iPhones.

In August 2011 the Minister for the Arts, the Hon Simon Crean, MP, released the National Cultural Policy Discussion Paper. The Discussion paper is the fundamental role of Indigenous culture and languages. The opportunity to contribute to the National Cultural Policy demonstrates the Government’s commitment to addressing the challenges of indigenous language loss.

Questions for discussion:
- What measures, programs or initiatives are being put in place by other States to support new media and emerging technologies in promoting and protecting Indigenous languages and culture?