Aboriginal Languages Policy

Language is our culture – culture is our language

This policy was developed to revitalise and increase understanding of Aboriginal languages.

1 September 2009
Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water
  • ISBN 978-1-74232-426-5
  • ID DECCW20090600
  • File PDF 56KB
  • Pages 14
  • Name aboriginal-languages policy-090600.pdf


Language is one of the most significant aspects of the culture and heritage of any group. Aboriginal culture and knowledge systems are largely expressed verbally, through vocalising place names, stories and songs. Aboriginal languages express culture, kinship, relationship to the land and water (oceans and rivers), and environmental knowledge.

Before the European colonisation of Australia, more than 250 indigenous languages, with over 600 dialects, were spoken in Australia. It is estimated that at least 70 of these languages were spoken in New South Wales. It was common for Aboriginal people in New South Wales to speak multiple languages. There has been a significant decrease in the use of Aboriginal languages since European colonisation.

Aboriginal knowledge of natural and cultural land management is concealed in Aboriginal language. Language is one way in which Aboriginal people express and interpret their knowledge of and connection to natural and cultural landscapes.

This policy was developed to help Aboriginal people and communities across New South Wales revitalise traditional languages by focusing on 4 main areas:

  • programs in Aboriginal communities
  • education programs
  • programs in jails and detention centres
  • Aboriginal language in the broader community.