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Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 (NSW)

Category: Legislation
Binomial Name: State of New South Wales
Date: 24 October 2017
Sub Category:Legislation
State/Country:New South Wales, Australia
Subject Matter:Law - Policy and Justice | Recognition of Traditional Rights and Interests
Summary Information:

The Aboriginal Languages Act 2017 (NSW) (the Act) is the first law in Australia to recognise the significance of First Languagessignificant recognition of the intangible cultural heritage of Aboriginal Peoples. 

Detailed Information:

Between May and August 2017, Aboriginal Affairs held community consultations for the purpose of ensuring that First Nation Peoplesaspirations were accurately represented and met in the draft Bill (NSW Aboriginal Affairs) 

The Act has three parts.  

First, a preamble that acknowledges the significance of Aboriginal languages and the importance of facilitating the Act's purpose for the longevity of Aboriginal custodianship of languages. 

Second, under s 4, the Act establishes the 'Aboriginal Languages Trust' (the Trust) to provide resources for local activities devoted to language practice. The Trust is a NSW government agency, and their affairs are carried out on a not-for-profit basis. Under s 5, the Trust's purpose is to support a focused and sustained effort for Aboriginal language activities at local, regional and State levels.  

The nine primary functions of the Trust are in s 6 of the Act. The Trust is managed by a board of five to eleven members, appointed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (the Minister). The Minister can only appoint Aboriginal persons who have relevant skills, expertise or experience, and the appropriate community standing (Williams, 2017). The Minister's power to intervene is limited to appointing members, approving the strategic plan and issuing directions. Directions of the Minister must be published, and the powers must not undermine the Trust's independence (Williams, 2017).  

Third, the Act sets out a five-year strategic plan, under s 13, to inform and lead the growth of Aboriginal languagein NSW (NSW Aboriginal Affairs)Under s 13(1), the Trust must prepare and submit a draft strategic plan within two years of the Act's commencement and every five years after that. The strategic plan must be approved by the Minister. Under s 15(1), the Trust must also prepare and submit an annual report of its progress and achievements to the Minister, who, under s 15(2) must table it in both Houses of Parliament as soon as practical.  

Primarily, the Act aims to support the continued practice of Aboriginal language, as the primary form of protection of this intangible cultural heritage (Tran & Barcham, 2018). 

Related Entries

  • Constitution Act 1902 (NSW)

  • References

    New South Wales Government, Aboriginal Affairs NSW Aboriginal Languages Legislation
    Leslie Williams (18/10/2017) Second Reading Speech, Aboriginal Languages Act 2017
    Working Paper
    Tran Tran and Clare Barcham (2018) (Re)defining Indigenous Intangible Cultural Heritage

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