• The Hon Sarah Mitchell, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for OCHRE’s major initiatives including Aboriginal Language and Culture Nests. (SBS)
Community members in New South Wales have expressed concerns that a government plan to protect Indigenous languages will give the State too much control over them, but the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says that won't happen.
By
Amanda Copp

14 Jun 2017 - 6:19 PM  UPDATED 14 Jun 2017 - 6:28 PM

Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Sarah Mitchell, consulted today with local community members in Redfern about the draft legislation to recognise and protect NSW Aboriginal languages.

Attendees raised concerns over the government taking too much control over the language program, but the minister assured people she is committed to working with Indigenous groups.

Chairman of the La Perouse based Dharawal Language Program, Raymond Ingrey, said the proposed legislation will only succeed if control of language remains in Aboriginal hands.

"As long as it's seen as community driven and well community represented, then Aboriginal people and communities will be more likely to engage in the process," he said.

Ms Mitchell explained that the government's plan wasn't a one-way street. 

"This is actually about making sure that we as a government can work hand-in-hand, side-by-side with local Aboriginal communities, to help preserve, protect and promote their languages," she said.

"It's not about government ownership and control, that very much stays within the local community, but it's about how we can work together to preserve these languages into the future."

The NSW government announced its proposed bill last year and is currently holding Indigenous community consultations across the State.

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Minister Mitchell said she has had some "pretty frank" conversations at the consultations, but she welcomes honest discussions with the community.

"It wasn't that long ago that Aboriginal people were not only prevented from speaking their own languages but punished for it, so for us as government now to recognise those past wrongs and say, 'We want to be the first state in the country to have legislation to protect your language,' I think is significant," she added.

"It's all about working with the community to make sure we get that outcome."

CEO of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council in Sydney, Nathan Moran, who was also at the event, remindend attendees "the key to Aboriginal culture is language."

"Language is very much the ingredient that allows us to open up the doors that explains the local environment, topography, dare we say the creation or Dreamtime stories associated with areas," he said.

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