AIATSIS Foundation

For the shards of the classical culture of this continent to vanish would be a loss not only to its indigenous peoples but also to all Australians, and to the world.

Noel Pearson, Quarterly Essay 55.

Our 50,000 year old Indigenous culture, recognized as the longest running culture in the world, is at risk of losing languages and songlines within one generation unless we act urgently.

Less than 10% of Australia’s languages are comprehensively documented. One or two languages disappear every year. Of more than 300 languages that existed pre-colonisation, fewer than half remain are all are considered endangered, many critically.

Even more fragile than language, the Songlines are often lost before languages. AIATSIS holds the largest collection of recordings of Song Cycles in the world, which are key conduits to sacred Indigenous knowledge systems. However, these are just a small proportion of the material that is held in the living memory of the most senior elders.

Your support will mean that languages at risk of disappearing over the next ten years will be retained or revived, that long forgotten songlines will be recorded and precious Indigenous culture and heritage will be safeguarded in the AIATSIS archives for the use of many generations to come.

Your donation to the AIATSIS Foundation will directly impact forever on the future of all Australians.

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AIATSIS' Indigenous language and 'Sorry Books' collections are inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
A page from the Sorry Book placed at the Wollondilly Shire Council, NSW in 1998. The Sorry Books were an important step towards reconciliation for hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Australian adventurer and photographer, Francis Birtles and two Aboriginal men alongside Birtles' Oldsmobile in 1910. The Birtles collection of photographs date back to the early 1900s and are of extreme importance to our national story.

Before It's Too Late: A call to secure Australia's Indigenous heritage, AIATSIS Council Chairperson Prof Mick Dodson, National Press Club address, Nov 2014

Learn more about AIATSIS

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  • Explore stories about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, history, culture, and rights
  • Delve into our collections
  • Our research informs and influences policies and practices of importance to Indigenous Australians
  • Publications from our publishing arm, Aboriginal Studies Press
Last reviewed: 18 Jun 2020