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AIATSIS & Rio Tinto partnership

David Prestipino, AIATSIS and Rio Tinto partner to preserve Indigenous languages, National Indigenous Times, 9 July 2024

AIATSIS interim CEO Leonard Hill at the launch of the program. (Image: supplied).

The preservation, revival and celebration of Indigenous cultures has been strengthened with a dedicated program to protect the vast array of First Nations languages launching on Tuesday.

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies’ (AIATSIS) new Centre for Australian Languages, and its ‘Our Languages Keep Us Strong’ program, is dedicated to protecting and preserving Indigenous cultures and knowledge.

The AIATSIS centre and program – which includes initiatives, projects and activities – is backed by $10 million funding over five years from miner Rio Tinto, which has several Indigenous joint ventures across its vast Pilbara iron ore operations.

Since its inception in 2023, its ‘Our Languages Keep Us Strong’ program has made significant progress towards its goals of helping Indigenous communities strengthen their languages locally, and increase national and global understanding of the value of them.

AIATSIS interim CEO, Leonard Hill said the new centre was dedicated to community-led language revitalisation efforts, as they were critical to preserving Indigenous cultural identity.

“I firmly believe our key objectives – including consistent baseline documentation, community-based revitalisation, support for teaching and learning, evidence-based monitoring, and fostering collaboration among language communities – can pave the way for Indigenous cultures to thrive,” he said on Tuesday.

Rio Tinto’s Australia chief executive, Kellie Parker said the AIATSIS Centre for Australian Languages was a significant step to the pair’s ongoing efforts to preserve and celebrate the linguistic diversity of Australia’s First Peoples.

“AIATSIS plays a vital role in preserving Indigenous knowledge and cultures, ensuring their recognition and respect,” she said.

“Through community-driven initiatives, AIATSIS, is paving the way for a future where Indigenous languages continue to thrive, ensuring that the rich tapestry of Indigenous culture endures for future generations.

“Rio Tinto’s support for this and other initiatives is part of our ‘Living Languages Living Cultures program’, which invests in preserving, reviving and celebrating Indigenous cultures.”

The AIATSIS Centre for Australian Languages was officially launched at the 2024 AIATSIS Summit in Naarm last month.

Located on Ngunnawal Country in Canberra, AIATSIS is Australia’s only national cultural institution solely dedicated to preserving and celebrating the diverse history, cultures, and heritage of Indigenous people.

It has collated more than a one million items encompassing film, photographs, audio recordings, art, objects, printed materials, teachings and other documentation since its inception in 1964.

Rio Tinto’s Living Languages Living Culture program began in 2023, part of its commitment to enhance ways of working with Indigenous communities and people.

This latest initiative is focused solely on the preservation and revitalisation of traditional language and culture, hoping to promote and achieve a deeper connection to Country, raise awareness, and provide crucial support to Indigenous communities through educational initiatives, language immersion and cultural programs.