Indigenous Literacy Day 2022
25th Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, 24th Governor of Queensland and Co-Patron, Indigenous Literacy Foundation, The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce AD CVO; Representing the Police Commissioner, Queensland Police Service, Acting Superintendent Mark Lingwood; the Ministerial and Government Indigenous Champions for the communities of: Yarrabah - Minister for Tourism, Innovation and Sport and Minister Assisting the Premier on Olympics and Paralympics Sport and Engagement, The Honourable Stirling Hinchliffe MP; Aurukun- Assistant Minister to the Premier for Veterans’ Affairs and COVID Economic Recovery, Mr Bart Mellish MP; Mornington Island - Assistant Minister for Hydrogen Development and the 50% Renewable Energy Target by 2030, Mr Lance McCallum MP; Woorabinda - Director-General, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Mr Neil Scales OBE; Chair of the Indigenous Arts Circle, the Honourable Anthe Philippides; Founder of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, Ms Suzy Wilson and Board Director Ms Leitha Assan; State Librarian and CEO of the State Library of Queensland, Ms Vicki McDonald AM; Girl Guides Queensland State Commissioner, Mrs Kathryn Pearson and CEO, Ms Kim Harrington; Reconciliation Queensland CEO, Ms Erin Lang and Committee Members; Elders, Aunty Lorraine Hatton OAM; Aunty Valmia Burns and Uncle John Burns; Aunty Bessie Hendriks-Peters; Uncle Albert Holt and Aunty Theresa Williams; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands on which we gather today, and their connection to land and community. I pay my respect to all First Nations people, and to the Elders past, present and emerging, who preserve and share their unique knowledge with great wisdom. My respects extend to all First Nations people here today.
Galang nguruindhau and Wunya.
Graeme and I are delighted to be hosting this afternoon’s very special celebration at Government House, to mark Indigenous Literacy Day 2022, which highlights the incredible richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stories, Cultures and Languages, and their deep connection with identity.
Languages provide meaning, transfer wisdom and knowledge, build a deep sense of belonging with place and people, and are kept alive by each generation for the next.
In Queensland, there are 177 different Indigenous languages plotted on our State’s Language Map, and each language is its own unique form of expression—a way of connecting with the land, its living creatures, and cultural traditions that stretch back at least 65,000 years.
Despite this complexity, we look forward to translating our Government House children’s book—A Place for All Queenslanders—into a few of the key Indigenous languages from the regions Graeme and I have visited.
Preserving and encouraging the use of First Nation’s languages is vital for building self-esteem in individuals, and resilience in communities.
Sadly, however, many of our precious Indigenous languages are at risk of being lost forever, with only 20 of the 177, I mentioned earlier, being used as first languages. Some of their words reflect beautiful concepts that do not have an English equivalent, so the repercussions of their loss would be significant.
The dual pressures of decreasing numbers of fluent speakers, and ready access to resources, impact on the opportunities for Indigenous children to learn their mother tongues.
This is why UNESCO declared 2022 the beginning of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, and why the practical work the Indigenous Literacy Foundation is doing—in supplying culturally relevant books to remote communities, promoting the concept of reading, and encouraging the use of First languages—is so crucial in our State, and right across the country.
I commend those who work for and support the Foundation, because we are all enriched by the influence and vibrancy of First Nations cultures and languages, and share a responsibility to help protect and promote them.
To this end, I am excited to announce the inaugural Governor’s Creative Writing Competition “Girl Scribes!”—initiated by Girl Guides Queensland—which will see all profits generated by the $5 entry fee being generously donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.
As a proud patron of Girl Guides Queensland and a passionate supporter of literacy, I am delighted to see these two interests merging, as Youth Guide Members across the State respond to the theme “Exploring what makes Queensland great”.
Together, I am optimistic we will be able to preserve our State’s ancient languages, songs, stories and art—and even more brilliantly—encourage them to flourish.
Thank you for joining us today, and for your support of Indigenous Literacy Day 2022.