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Culture and language

Indigenous language speakers

Indigenous languages spoken at home

In 2016, among Indigenous Australians:

  • 10% (63,753 people) spoke 1 of the about 150 different Australian Indigenous languages being spoken (including Kriol) as their main language at home.
  • 9% (18,724) of children younger than 15 spoke 1 of the around 30 different Indigenous languages spoken by children as their main language at home (Figure CL 9a).
  • The proportion who spoke an Australian Indigenous language as the main language spoken at home was highest in the Northern Territory (66% or 34,731) (Figure CL 9b).
  • Those living in Very remote areas were more likely to speak an Indigenous language at home than those in other remoteness areas—63% (46,291) in Very remote areas, compared with 1% in Major cities (3,074) and Inner regional areas (1,648 people) (Figure CL 9b).
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Of the 10% of Indigenous Australians who spoke an Australian Indigenous language as their main language at home, the most common languages spoken were:

  • Kriol (11% or 7,153)
  • Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) (10% or 6,172)
  • Djambarrpuyngu (7% or 4,286)
  • Pitjantjatjara (5% or 3,127) (Figure CL 10).

Kriol and Yumplatok are creole languages that were formed through the mixing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages with English. There are several different dialects of Kriol.

Note: A further 3,339 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were counted as speaking “Creole (not further defined)” as their main language at home in the 2016 Census (mainly people living in Queensland). This response was not grouped with Australian Indigenous languages, in accordance with the ABS’ language groupings.

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First Languages Australia and regional language centres nationally have developed an interactive map of Australian Indigenous languages (not including the creole languages). It uses names and groupings favoured by each community. The map is titled ‘Gambay’ and can be found at Gambay - First languages map.