In 2004 AIATSIS was commissioned by the Commonwealth Government (through the then Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, DCITA) to carry out an assessment of the state of Indigenous languages and language programs in Australia. The consultancy was carried out jointly with the Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (FATSIL) and included the following three components:
- An Australia-wide survey of the status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages;
- Identify, document and report on language resource material available, including location;
- Develop strategies to address the findings of the Australia-wide survey, including considerations affecting program development and service delivery and presenting the findings in a report.
This report presents the results of the Australia-wide survey, which was carried out jointly with FATSIL and includes information on numbers of speakers, intergenerational transmission of language, and language programs. These survey results are analysed to give insight into the relative degrees of endangerment amongst Australian Indigenous languages and the kinds of language programs operating. The report provides a detailed discussion of language endangerment in Australia and how to identify the degree of endangerment in order to identify appropriate types of programs for use in specific situations.
The report provides 52 specific recommendations, as well as four main proposals linked to the needs revealed by the NILS and other surveys: language nests, community language teams, regional Indigenous language centres, and a national Indigenous language centre.