Joint Statement on NSW Aboriginal Languages

20 October 2017

The NSW Parliament has passed Aboriginal languages legislation.

The NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (NSW AECG) and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) combined are the largest Aboriginal representative bodies in New South Wales and had only five days to review the Aboriginal languages Bill before it was passed into law.

The NSW AECG and the NSWALC met NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Sarah Mitchell and Government-selected community representatives involved in the revival of Aboriginal languages to discuss concerns about aspects of the proposed Aboriginal Languages Bill.

While both peak bodies support efforts to strengthen the growth and nurturing of Aboriginal Languages, concerns were held about the level of Aboriginal community control of the proposed Aboriginal Languages Trust, the Aboriginal Languages strategic plan and ultimately who controls the use of Aboriginal languages under the new laws.

The administration functions of the Aboriginal Languages Trust will be located in the office of Aboriginal Affairs within the Department of Education and Communities for two years, despite community unease about this arrangement.

The discussions were constructive and respectful, but unfortunately fell short of the expectations and proposed amendments put forward by the two peak bodies.

The NSW AECG and the NSWALC respect the opinions of all involved in that discussion and accept the following resulting amendments in respect to Aboriginal community control.

  • Clarification in the preamble that while Aboriginal Languages enrich the cultural heritage of the state, it is Aboriginal peoples that have the right to control their growth and nurturing 
  • Clarification around the primacy of the Aboriginal Languages Strategic Plan in respect to any directions of the Minister, and that require the Minister to consult with the Aboriginal Languages Trust in approving that plan
The NSWALC holds Aboriginal community control of Aboriginal cultural heritage as a sacrosanct first principle for any such reforms, particularly the impending Aboriginal culture and heritage reforms to replace Part 6 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

The two peak bodies unashamedly advocate for Aboriginal self-determination and remain concerned about the implementation of Aboriginal languages reforms and the future Aboriginal culture and heritage reforms. We will vigilantly measure the development and implementation of all reforms against this standard.