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New association established to revitalise languages across the Torres Strait

LANGUAGES CHAMPIONS: Keeping culture strong
Left to right:
Back – TSRA’s Anna Drummond, Phillemon Mosby (Kulkalgal Language Cluster Representative), Maria Tapim (Kemer Kemer Meriam Language Cluster Representative) and TSRA’s John Morseau
Front – TSTLA Chairperson Cygnet Repu (Maluyligal Language Cluster) and Mariana Babia (Guda Maluyilgal Cluster Representative)
Inset: Louise Manas (Kaywalagal Language Cluster Representative)

A new board of language leaders is set to celebrate, preserve and promote languages and culture of the Torres Strait with support from government agencies including the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA).

Acting TSRA Chairperson Horace Baira announced a new body – Torres Strait Traditional Languages Association (TSTLA) – would facilitate the revitalisation and maintenance of traditional languages across the region.

“Language and culture are interdependent and vital for the continuity of our people, Ailan Kastoms and way of life,” Mr Baira said.

“TSRA’s support will ensure the Torres Strait Traditional Language Association is structurally prepared for the forecasted growth in language needs across our Island communities.

“Now is the time to progress our region’s language aspirations during the International Decade of Indigenous Languages 2022-2032,” he said.

With TSRA’s commitment, the TSTLA Initial Board has finalised its foundations and governance structure.

The Torres Strait Traditional Languages Advisory Committee dissolved in July 2022 after serving its purpose and delivering on the 2016-2019 Torres Strait Languages Plan.

Torres Strait Traditional Languages Association Chairperson Mr Cygnet Repu said the new entity would build on the work of its predecessor by engaging and developing capacity partnerships within the region.

“Our Board acknowledges the planning and outcomes achieved by the former Torres Strait Traditional Language Advisory Committee and Torres Strait Traditional Languages Reference Group prior to that,” Mr Repu said.

“Moving forward the Torres Strait Traditional Languages Association will continue the important language revitalisation work that is still needed in our region.

“Driven by pillars of resilience, capability and innovation, our shared vision is to ensure our people speak and use traditional languages every day.

“We will realise our vision by empowering our communities and protecting the inherited cultural rights and traditional languages of our region,” he said.

The Torres Strait Traditional Languages Association’s long-term goal is to operate as a separate entity from the TSRA in mid-2023.

Torres Strait Traditional Language Association Initial Board:

  • Chairperson Mr Cygnet Repu (Maluyligal Language Cluster Representative)
  • Maria Tapim (Kemer Kemer Meriam Language Cluster Representative)
  • Louise Manas (Kaywalagal Language Cluster Representative)
  • Mariana Babia (Guda Maluyligal Cluster Representative)
  • Phillemon Mosby (Kulkalgal Language Cluster Representative)

It is estimated more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects were spoken in Australia before colonisation. In Queensland, around 50 of these remain, with less than 20 used as first languages.

The association is supported by the Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts’ (Office for the Arts) Indigenous Languages and Arts (ILA) Program.

For further information on Office for the Arts ILA Program, please visit Indigenous Languages and Arts program | Office for the Arts at www.arts.gov.au/what-we-do/indigenous-arts-and-languages/indigenous-languages-and-arts-program

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.