The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) will retrieve, revive and strengthen Indigenous Languages for Victorian Aboriginal people.
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) will achieve this by:
- Acting as the peak body for Victorian Aboriginal Languages to develop partnerships with, and provide resources and information to, government and non-government and community organizations.
- Promoting VACL as it fosters appreciation and use of Indigenous languages in a range of domains and media, so as to advance their retrieval, revival and maintenance.
- Assisting Aboriginal communities to coordinate resources and employment and training through local language centres and committees.
- Providing and maintaining a centre for resources for, and documentation of languages for the benefit of Victorian Aboriginal people.
- Ensuring good governance and management practices within VACLs structure.
The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages was established in 1994 to address the issues of language loss and is the state body responsible for coordinating Community Language Programs throughout Victoria. These programs are run in local communities that report regularly back to VACL. The Corporation is focused on retrieving, recording and researching Aboriginal languages and providing a central resource on Victorian Aboriginal Languages with programs now looking at educational tools to teach the Indigenous community about language.
Aboriginal Languages in pre-contact Australia
Prior to colonisation there were approximately 250 Indigenous languages spoken in Australia (approximately 40 in Victoria). Some of these had several varieties, and there were altogether about 500 language varieties used across Australia. Before settlement Indigenous individuals were capable of speaking five or more languages fluently. When two people met, they could identify the region each came from by the way they spoke. It was a bit like travelling across Europe and recognising which country each person comes from by their language.
Aboriginal Languages in Victoria today
In recent years there has been an upsurge of interest in the Aboriginal languages of the south-eastern corner of Australia. The boundaries between one language area and another are not distinct. Rather, mixtures of vocabulary and grammatical construction exist in such regions, and so linguistic maps may show some variation about where one language ends and another begins.
Many Australian Indigenous languages have declined to a critical state. More than three-quarters of the original Australian languages have already been lost, and the survival of almost all of the remaining languages are extremely threatened.
“Language is the carrier of information about who we are,
how we express ourselves and our culture,
it defines our world around us”
Language alive in the community
Communities throughout Victoria, supported by VACL, are reviving their languages through language camps, workshops, school programs and educational material for children, music and dictionaries.
Aims of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages:
- To manage the Victorian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language Initiative Program (ATSILIP).
- To provide and maintain a central resource for Victorian Indigenous Languages for the benefit of the local Aboriginal Communities and individual Aboriginal people of Victorian Aboriginal descent.
- To ensure that local Community Language Programs are progressing according to their benchmarks and objectives.
- To support local Aboriginal community programs with research and retrieval by supporting the language workers with advice, training and assistance when needed.
- To research and retrieve language materials from Victorian and interstate archives, so the material can be made available to local communities.
- Assist local Communities with the writing of retrieval plans.
"Education and language are the glue needed to
maintain, revive and reclaim culture."
Why is language important?
Language is important to Aboriginal people because it is a way for them to express their identity and be proud of where they come from and who they are. If a person knows a word in their language he/she is maintaining a link that has lasted thousands of years, keeping words alive that have been used by their ancestors - language is an ancestral right and it distinguishes something special about Aboriginal people from non-Aboriginal people. Language is a part of culture, and knowledge about culture is a means of empowering people. Language contributes to the wellbeing of Aboriginal communities, strengthens ties between elders and young people and improves education in general for Indigenous people of all ages.