The thirteenth anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People will be commemorated in Australia this year with a collaborative project between Twitter Australia and the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation.
The two organisations will partner on an initiative that celebrates the importance of First Nations languages that has been backed by the likes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner June Oscar and popular musical act Electric Fields.
The project commences on Sunday when @TwitterAU introduces a new feature that enables users to include voice recordings into their posts. A number of First Nations people involved with the project will share tweets in diverse languages such as Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Erub Mer, and Adnyamathanha throughout the day.
Co-Chair at The Australian Literacy And Numeracy Foundation (ALNF), Tom Calma, told NITV News the partnership provided an important opportunity for reflection, which he hopes will educate the broader community about the importance of preserving First Nations languages.
“It’s a great partnership and it’s something that’s important to Indigenous people because it’s an opportunity to expose to the wider population the fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is the longest surviving culture in the world, so while languages are still vibrant, they are under immense threat," he said.
Mr Calma said although some Indigenous languages are still spoken, the number of “secure” languages was down to around a dozen, with about 159 still spoken out of over 600 languages that existed prior to European colonisation.
“The loss of languages is a direct result of colonisation and policies and practices of the past that denied us the right to speak our languages and practice our cultures,” he said.
Mr Calma said that with a statistical deterioration in Indigenous languages over the last five years, it is critical to act quickly to ensure the preservation of First Nations languages for future generations.
“We can’t lose another language every five years. We have to arrest that and also take the opportunity to encourage others to work on their languages and revive them so that not only the cultural owners can speak them, but also other members of society living on Indigenous land can understand them,” he said.
“The opportunity for a voice is now.”
Director of Public Policy at Twitter Australia and New Zealand, Kara Hinesley, told NITV News the partnership with the ALNF felt like a natural progression.
“With the introduction of the new feature of voice tweets, it’s a perfect time to leverage the technology for the ALNF and their ambassadors to communicate their own stories, narratives and conversations,” said Ms Hinesley.
“Especially since many of these languages were traditionally passed on orally and don’t always have written translations, so it’s a unique opportunity to have them heard and the importance of them recognised.”
Ms Hinesley said Indigenous engagement on Twitter had seen great growth in the last five years and that the company was proud to enable greater awareness and appreciation of Indigenous languages.