National Indigenous Languages Report (NILR)

Project status: 

The AIATSIS National Indigenous Languages Report (NILR), which includes the Survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages, is now complete. 

The National Indigenous Languages Report (NILR) is a collaboration between the Australian Government Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (Office for the Arts), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and the Australian National University (ANU) in consultation with Aboriginal organisations.

It aims to refocus the national conversation on the opportunities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures offer, and contribute to our understanding of and inform our support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. AIATSIS is leading the work for the first component of the NILR.

NILR will be the third Australian Indigenous languages report to be produced. The two previous reports were in the form of the First and Second National Indigenous Languages Surveys (NILS1 and NILS2).

AIATSIS is doing work that seeks to answer the question: What is the current state of Indigenous languages in Australia? The aim of this question is to create a snapshot of the current status of Australian languages with a focus on the numbers of speakers, the age and gender distributions of speakers, and how languages are used. It will also seek information on documentation for each language. AIATSIS plans to incorporate data collected from this NILR survey into the AUSTLANG database of Australian languages.

There are two surveys to investigate the current state of Australian Indigenous languages. AIATSIS is implementing the first survey; which is to be completed by language centres and other communities or organisations carrying out language projects; as well as by linguists who specialise in Australian Indigenous languages. This survey is designed to collect the following information for each Indigenous language:

  • The total approximate number of speakers, and the proportion of people within the community that speak the language;
  • The age and gender distribution of speakers;
  • The proficiency levels of speakers;
  • The domains in which the language is used;
  • Documentation levels and available resources;
  • Current activities and programs being conducted; and
  • Training of Indigenous language workers and teachers.

The second survey is an online public survey for individuals to complete. Focusing on identity, it is designed to collect information on language identification and locations of language speakers. Building on the positive feedback regarding the engagement with individuals in NILS1, this survey provides a platform for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to engage with and provide input into NILR, while being easy and simple to answer.

NILR survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages

We are grateful to everyone who participated in the AIATSIS NILR survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. For further enquiries, contact:


Last reviewed: 17 Aug 2020