At the time of European settlement in Australia in the 1700s, Indigenous people across the continent spoke an estimated 250 languages. Some of these are still spoken today, but most have become extinct or are in danger of disappearing.
However, in the past 30 years, Australian governments, educators and researchers have been developing programs and strategies to maintain and preserve Australia’s Indigenous linguistic heritage and to support those who continue to speak Indigenous languages or those who wish to revive Indigenous languages.
Many words from Indigenous languages, especially the names of places and animals, have passed into general Australian English usage and form an important part of contemporary Australian identity. The name of Australia’s capital city, Canberra, comes from an Indigenous word meaning ‘meeting place’.