Australia's first native languages bill passes through NSW State parliament

Source: Xinhua| 2017-10-11 13:51:15|Editor: Yang Yi
Video PlayerClose

SYDNEY, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- New legislation to promote and recognize the importance of native Aboriginal languages in Australia's New South Wales (NSW) has been passed through State Parliament in Sydney on Wednesday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement obtained by Xinhua that she was proud NSW was the first state in the country to introduce such a landmark bill.

"Today is an historic day," she said.

"This legislation will acknowledge the importance of Aboriginal languages for years to come."

It's estimated that when British settlers arrived in Australia, there were over 300 indigenous languages with 28 different language families and isolates.

By the turn of the 21st century however, fewer than 150 indigenous languages remain in daily use across isolated parts of the country, with all but 13 considered to be highly endangered.

In order to preserve the unique culture of the first Australians, NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell worked with language experts and indigenous community members to develop the Bill.

"It was crucial to get a diverse range of opinions and input from all over the state to ensure the legislation was as sturdy as possible," Mitchell said.

Among the details of the bill will be the establishment of an independent trust that is made up of Aboriginal community leaders tasked with developing a strategic plan to "protect" and "strengthen" Aboriginal languages through programs, partnerships and funding.

"The Bill was introduced in the Upper House today in the presence of Aboriginal Elders and community representatives with a moving message stick ceremony - symbolic of Aboriginal people's custodianship of language," Mitchell said.