Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Torres Strait Islander Languages


Guiding principles

Appropriate consultations with relevant Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities are always central to the development of language-specific curricula and the provision of language learning programs in schools. The following guiding principles and protocols are integral to the development and provision of language curricula and programs at all stages of development, implementation and evaluation.


Each Aboriginal language or Torres Strait Islander language is recognised as belonging to a group of people who are its owners or custodians. This means that permission and consent must be sought from the owners when developing language-specific curricula and planning language programs, including visits, excursions to the Country/Place and use of cultural material as part of the teaching and learning program.

Sufficient time and resources should be allowed for thorough and ongoing consultation processes in accordance with local contexts and situations. Often there will be more than one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language represented in the local setting, so a decision needs to be reached as to which language or languages will be developed and taught and who is appropriate to teach and learn the language(s). The ultimate authority regarding the choice of language rests with the local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community.


A comprehensive survey of the local language situation should be conducted before a language-specific curriculum is developed or a language program is commenced. The development of a language-specific curriculum that is not the language of the land also requires consultation with both the local community and the community of the language.

The curriculum development team at either school or systems level needs to identify the appropriate persons in the local Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community to consult. These would typically be local Elders, traditional owners, individuals with historical links to the language, and relevant local community organisations. Issues to be considered might include:

  • whether the proposed language is the language of the land on which it will be learnt
  • the proportion of students in the proposed program identifying directly with the language
  • the availability of appropriate human resources for developing and teaching the language
  • the level of documentation and resources available for the language, including issues of copyright and Indigenous cultural and intellectual property.

Allowance should be made for the possibility that a different language to that preferred by the curriculum development team or the school may eventually be requested and/or chosen by the local community, or that there may be no agreement within the local community as to choice of language. In cases where there is no agreement, the curriculum development or learning program would not proceed.

Schools and state and territory education systems and authorities should consult all local community organisations that have interests and responsibilities in local language, school programs or community governance. These organisations will include local language centres, health centres, land councils, native title bodies, professional associations, representative bodies, networks of schools, local Aboriginal education consultative groups or equivalent, groups of educators and any other relevant key stakeholders.

Schools should also ensure that language and cultural materials produced by their language programs are kept in safe-keeping places with appropriate deposit and access processes in place. In these ways schools will be supporting communities to build and keep safe a range of resources for their language programs.


Ngarrindjeri ngulamaldar ngratun palai-ambi, kar yunti-warrun rawulinyeri thunggari wunyi kar tambi-warrun kaltjar.

Ngarrindjeri students learning for the future, bringing together past language and keeping culture alive.

Anita Wano-Sumner, Aboriginal Secondary Education Transition Officer, Victor Harbor High School

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