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 Traditional Languages

Revitalising community languages

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 124 No 2, 15 March 2019, page no. 14

In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages, noting that 40 per cent of the estimated 6,700 languages spoken around the world were in danger of disappearing.  

Queensland has more than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, many of which are now considered endangered, and the Queensland Government is working with representatives of the Queensland Indigenous Languages Committee to progress a dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander language policy.  The policy is to be in place in the first half of this year.  

Many of our schools work with language teachers and community members to energise and revitalise community languages.  The Department of Education indicates that in 2018 approximately 22 Indigenous languages were being taught in more than 50 Queensland state schools.  Schools from Cape York to Western Queensland and into Logan City are teaching languages that are endangered.

Yugambeh Language and Museum



The Yugambeh language people are the traditional custodians of the land located in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales, now within the Logan CityGold CoastScenic Rim, and Tweed City regions whose ancestors all spoke one or more dialects of the Yugambeh Language

With the support of the Yugambeh Museum at Beenleigh, which serves as a regional language centre covering over a dozen languages and dialects, Waterford West State School has been teaching the Yugambeh language and culture to students through the curriculum. Other schools are following Waterford West’s lead.

Yugambeh Language

Waterford West State School’s Languages program provides students with the opportunity to see language as a means of real communication (a personal artefact or capability) rather than simply as an object of study. The majority of class time is spent in purposeful language use, where the focus is not only on what is being said but also on how it is being said. Students are given opportunities to reflect on these experiences and their linguistic and intercultural implications.

Aboriginal Languages of Australia

There are more than 250 Australian Indigenous languages. Less than 20 of these languages are strong, and even those are endangered: the others have been destroyed, live in the memories of the elderly, or are being revived by their communities.

This Virtual Library web catalogue was founded in January 1996. It currently has annotated links to 515 resources for over 150 languages. About 37% of these resources are produced, published by, or directly represent the voices of Indigenous people.

Butchulla lullaby

By Brad Marsellos · · From Mother Tongue

Yunma-n Walabai, Walbai Yunma-n

Bula walalbai mil nhaa Biral (Two little eyes to look up to God)

Bula walalbai binang buranga ngunda yaalam (Two little ears to hear his word)

Kalim walalbai dunam yaalam galangoor (One little tongue to speak the truth)

Yunma-n walalbai walbai yunman (Sleep little baby sleep)

Yunma-n walalbai walbai yunman (Sleep little baby sleep)

Yunma-n walalbai walbai yunman (Sleep little baby sleep)

Performed and written by Joy Bonner in Butchulla

Joy Bonner of Hervey Bay understands the importance of remembering. Joy is doing everything she can to make sure her traditional language, Butchulla, is not forgotten.

Greetings in Butchulla, sharing conversations with children and rediscovering songs from the past, are all helping to keep the language alive.

In this video Joy shares a lullaby her mother would sing to her as a child, Yunma-n Walabai, Walbai Yunma-n.

Torres Strait Language Symposium 2017

The second Torres Strait Language Symposium was held at Gab Titui Cultural Centre, Thursday Island from the 2nd - 3rd May 2017. This resulted in the development of the Traditional Languages Plan. 

The Traditional Languages Plan will facilitate the revitalisation and maintenance of traditional languages by empowering our communities and protecting the rights and inheritance of our people


Click on image to download your copy of the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Plan 2016-2019


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