Published May 21, 2020
Yankunytjatjara is spoken by as many as 7600 people, primarily in parts of Western Australia, South Australia, and the Northern Territory. It is a member of the Wati linguistic family, which includes over a dozen languages from central-west Australia. Like all Indigenous languages of Australia and the Torres Strait, Yankunytjatjara fell into steep decline over the 1900s, as forced assimilation policies designed by the Australian government coerced Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders to abandon their ancestral languages in favor of English. The most brutal of these policies included the forced abduction of Indigenous children—the Stolen Generation—who were sent to boarding schools where they were given English names and punished for speaking their languages. Today, Yankunytjatjara is one of many Australian languages to be experiencing a renaissance, as language champions like Karina Lester work to pass their cultures onto the next generation. First Languages Australia (FLA), which recorded this video, is part of that movement. An organization by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, FLA is working to safeguard and amplify the linguistic heritage of Australia's more than two-hundred Indigenous nations. Learn more about their work here: https://firstlanguages.org.au/.