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Culture and language

Indigenous languages in Australia

Australia has a great diversity of Indigenous languages, with many more regional varieties. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) maintains the Austlang database, which holds information about 1,200 Indigenous Australian language varieties. It includes a Thesaurus of Languages and Peoples that is linked to Mura, the AIATSIS catalogue, with more information about the specific language and related varieties.

Each language variety has an alpha-numeric code to maintain its identity across a range of spellings and names. These names can be changed to accommodate community preference, because the code is the persistent identifier in digital systems. The codes are used by a range of national and international agencies, such as the National Library of Australia, to identify items in or about a particular language variety.

The information about each variety is collected from referenced sources to ensure that readers know where it has come from. More information about Austlang can be found on the AIATSIS website.

The map below indicates the location of most language varieties; each point indicates the central location of the area described in the references. You can view information about a variety by clicking on its point. This will show you the reference language name and recorded alternate spellings and names.

The information in the Austlang collection has been brought together from a wide range of sources. It is important to note the following warning from AIATSIS when considering this information: Users are warned that there may be words and descriptions which may be culturally sensitive and which might not normally be used in certain public or community contexts. Terms and annotations which reflect the creator's attitude or that of the period in which the item was written may be considered inappropriate today in some circumstances.

Map of Indigenous languages