Aboriginal Languages

Why is this important?

Prior to colonisation there were approximately 40 Aboriginal languages spoken in Victoria.

For Aboriginal people today, the use, recording, revival and research of Aboriginal languages is an important way of recognising their culture and the journey towards reconciliation.

The use of Aboriginal language in the naming and signage of local places and landmarks can reinforce shared histories and build awareness of Aboriginal people. It helps to strengthen links between local government and Aboriginal people by building a welcoming environment for Aboriginal people.

What can your Council do?

Councils can promote Aboriginal languages in a number of ways:

  • Work with Traditional Owners and local Aboriginal communities to identify opportunities in which Aboriginal language can be recognised locally. This may include signage that reflects Aboriginal histories, cultural knowledge and traditions.
  • Ensure guidelines, including consultation with Aboriginal communities, are followed for formally naming geographic features with traditional Aboriginal names (Read more about guidelines of naming places or download Naming rules for places in Victoria).
  • The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages (VACL) is actively involved in promoting and reviving Victoria’s Aboriginal languages.  VACL can work with local governments and Aboriginal communities around naming and use of language in signage. Visit: www.vaclang.org.au.


Some helpful resources

Victorian Aboriginal Languages Map 

First Languages Australia 

Mother Tongue: ABC site presenting First language stories from Victorian Aboriginal communities 

Human Rights Commission Social Justice Report (2009) – The perilous state of Indigenous languages in Australia 


Something new

Languages Connecting Culture

This course is designed for Aboriginal people who want to learn their language so they can teach others in their community and in schools and early childhood settings.

Students who complete this course will gain a formal qualification in Aboriginal languages.

To find out more or submit an expression of interest email marrung@edumail.vic.gov.au or call 0438 071 799. 

Last Updated: April 9, 2021 at 2:25 pm

Good practice examples

Signage acknowledging the Wurundjeri people as the Traditional Owners and containing a traditional Wurundjeri welcome greets people entering the City of Darebin.

The City of Ballarat acknowledges the Traditional Owners through welcome and goodbye signs along the Western Highway in language.

The Glenelg Aboriginal Partnership Plan 2014 – 2016 lists actions that will acknowledge and recognise local Aboriginal people as traditional landowners. These include developing naming protocols to provide Aboriginal names to streets, parks, facilities and reserves. Following consultation with Traditional Owners of the area, VACL and the broader community, the new Portland Child and Family Complex was given the traditional Dhauwurd Wurrung name, “Karreeta Peeneeyt Mara”, meaning Grow Strong People.

“Language is the key to Indigenous wellbeing in Australia.  Australia will be a much better place when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language communities are strong and healthy and have the power to control their own destiny”.

First Languages Australia, National Indigenous Languages Collections Strategy 2015




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