As of March 2018, there is no official language of Australia. English is still by far the most used national language of Australia and is the language of government. The fact that indigenous languages, some of them still very much in use within the indigenous communities across the country, are not regarded with the same importance as English, is something that is a contentious issue which is yet to be resolved.

Languages in Australia

Indigenous Languages of Australia

Before European settlement in Australia, there were several hundred indigenous languages. 0Many of these were dialects of principal languages, but many more were mutually incomprehensible. The fact that there were so many different languages reflected the fact that indigenous people, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, had been living in the island continent and its offshore islands for up to 50,000 years. The geographical and climatic separation had allowed divergence of languages over this immense time. The fact that indigenous colonisation of Australia had probably involved separate waves of migration over the millennia probably also added to the diversity of languages and language groups.

The fact that there are so many indigenous languages makes it more difficult to choose anyone that is more important than any other. In December 2015, a Northern Territory (N.T.) Aboriginal MP was denied the chance of speaking in her own native language, Warlpiri, by the Speaker of the N.T. Legislative Assembly, as it was asserted that the official language was English, an assertion that was technically incorrect.

The incident, not coincidentally perhaps, came only a week after the nation’s Prime Minister (who belonged in the same political camp as both the Aboriginal M.P. and the Speaker of the N.T. Legislative Assembly) gave a preface to a speech in Ngunnuwal, the language of the indigenous people of Canberra.

Other New Australian Languages

It is also true that since colonisation, Australia has become a multilingual country, reflecting the diversity of languages of more recent immigrants. Chinese, Vietnamese, German, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Croatian, Maltese, Spanish and Korean and many more languages are spoken in 20% of Australian homes but have never become influential enough to become an official language of Australia or a national language of Australia.

There are many who think Australia is behind the times. Many other nations recognise their multiplicity of languages, especially those that have been in use since time immemorial, like Australia’s indigenous languages.