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Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Page: 1677

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 20 February 2008:

(1)   How many Indigenous languages existed in Australia in 1788.

(2)   How many of these languages have been lost.

(3)   Are any Indigenous languages currently at risk of being lost; if so, which ones.

(4)   What strategies are currently in place to ensure the survival of Indigenous languages.

(5)   What funding has been committed to ensure the survival of Indigenous languages.

Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   While exact figures are difficult to assess, the most recent and comprehensive study undertaken, The National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) Report 2005 estimates an original number of over 250 known Australian Indigenous languages.

(2)   The NILS Report 2005 estimates over 100 have been lost.

(3)   The NILS Report estimates about 145 Indigenous languages are still spoken, of which about 110 are seriously at risk.

(4)   The Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records (MILR) program provides funding to assist the maintenance, revival and recording of Australian Indigenous languages. In 2007-08, the MILR program is supporting 72 projects across Australia incorporating about 160 languages, including languages that are no longer spoken. Projects include the operation of language centres, transmission of languages, development of databases and support of coordination between language organisations.

(5)   The budgeted allocations for the MILR program are $8.9m for 2007-08, $9.1m for 2008-09, $9.3m for 2009-10 and $9.4m for 2010-2011.