Speaking our language

AUSTLANG Australian Indigenous languages database

NSLA libraries are marking the International Year of Indigenous Languages in many ways, from major exhibitions to public talks and promoting an Indigenous word of the week. But it's the work going on behind the scenes that will have the biggest long-term impact.

In 2019, NSLA libraries are aiming to enhance catalogue records pertaining to Indigenous language content in our collections by adding AUSTLANG codes to catalogue metadata. NAIDOC week (7-14 July) will be the focal point for these efforts, with a collaborative codeathon to apply specific Australian Indigenous language codes to as many records as possible. See the National Library's national codeathon page for more information about how to get involved via Trove.

Where previously materials in Indigenous languages were catalogued under a catch-all 'Australian languages' descriptor, adding AUSTLANG codes identifies the specific language/s used, making materials easier to discover, for researchers and family historians alike. Catalogue enhancements will also have a flow-on effect to Trove, which will launch new features such as a dedicated Indigenous languages search field next year.

AUSTLANG is a definitive thesaurus of Australian Indigenous languages developed by AIATSIS, with over 1200 records of language varieties. AUSTLANG codes have been in use since it was released to the public in 2008, but it wasn’t until late last year, after successful lobbying by AIATSIS and the National Library of Australia, that AUSTLANG was added to the Library of Congress’s MARC Language Codes list, enabling it to be applied in a standardised way in libraries all over the world.

Watch the In search of Indigenous Australian languages webinar from AIATSIS and the National library of Australia to find out more about AUSTLANG and how to use it in MARC fields.

The AUSTLANG data set and access to the API is now available via data.gov.au. The dataset includes the language names, each with a unique alpha-numeric code that functions as a stable identifier, alternative/variant names and spellings and the approximate location of each language variety.