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Indigenous Languages


Event Status

Aboriginal languages and Torres Strait Islander languages are fundamental to the identities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and in recent years there has been an increased public interest in these languages. Unfortunately, for some languages, it’s too late; many have declined to a critical state. More than three quarters of Indigenous Australian languages are no longer spoken every day, with others remaining under threat.

On the eve of the Blak & Bright Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival, we explore the shape of Aboriginal languages in Australia today, with a special focus on Victoria. How do you reawaken a language in a contemporary context? What are the challenges for traditional owner groups in relearning their languages? Can – and should – the general public learn a local Aboriginal language? And how do we empower traditional owner groups through their languages?

Join speakers Paul Paton, Mandy Nicholson and Joel Wright as they discuss these issues and more, with host Gregory Phillips.


Paul Paton

Paul Paton is an Aboriginal man from the Gunnai and Monaro tribes of southeastern Australia and is the Executive Officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages. VACL is very strong in developing and producing new resources for community programs, training in linguistics... Read more

Mandy Nicholson

Mandy is a member of the Wurundjeri-willam clan of Melbourne and surrounds and currently lives in the South Eastern Suburbs. Mandy is a recognised artist, qualified Archaeologist and leader of the Djirri Djirri Dance Group. Mandy has been working at the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages... Read more

Joel Wright

A Gunditjmara man from south western Victoria, Joel Wright has worked predominately in Aboriginal Affairs for over 35 years. Joel is currently the co-ordinator of the Laka Gunditj Language program which services Aboriginal language groups in south west Victoria. He has recently launched six bil... Read more

Gregory Phillips

Gregory Phillips is from the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, and comes from Cloncurry and Mount Isa. He is a medical anthropologist, with thirty years’ experience in leading change in cultural safety, healing and decolonisation.Gregory is Chief Executive Officer of ABSTARR Consulting, is a Professor of... Read more


The Wheeler Centre

176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne Victoria 3000

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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.