The 2017 NAIDOC week celebrations kick off on July 2nd with the spotlight focusing firmly on the rich, diverse and resilient aspect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

The Australian Government (2016) NAIDOC website describesthe aim of the 2017 theme - Our Languages Matter – as emphasising and celebrating the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity. It goes on to state that language plays a vital role in linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.

As educators, parents and carers, we understand how important it is to support children in learning literacy skills such as language, enabling them to be competent and confident students. But what about if the language you were learning was so far removed from the roots in which your very soul was born? What if you did not identify with the words being taught? What if you feel a deep seeded connection to this earth and that of our past, yet the way in which you interact on a daily basis does not reflect any of this? Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adults feel this in their everyday lives. This NAIDOC week we encourage you to remind yourselves that our languages truly matter.

Reconciliation Australia’s Australian Reconciliation Barometer is a national research study measuring attitudes and perceptions towards reconciliation in both the general Australian community and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. The recent report showed that Australians believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are important to our national identity. With culture comes language, with language comes identity and with identity comes strength and reconciliation.

Teaching, recognising and respecting the multitude of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages has many benefits to both the indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Other than the obvious benefits of communications and identity, bilingualism has been linked to biological and emotional benefits as well as cognitive benefits such as the ability to focus and problem solve at a higher level than monolingual individuals.

But how do you contribute if you do not know the languages? There are a multitude of resources available but a great place to start may be by getting in contact with your local council. Through this avenue, you will be able to identify the country on which you reside as well as the language traditionally spoken there. This is a respectful and appropriate way to begin.

Keep up to date on our Facebook as we give you more tips on what to do this NAIDOC week.