Before colonisation, over 250 First Nations languages were spoken in Australia. Now, just over 100 are still in use and 90 per cent are considered “endangered”.
“Without your language, you’re nobody,” Ms Holden said.
“Your language describes your country and your culture. That’s why it’s so important for us.”
Ms Holden is one of a dozen committee members working for First Languages Australia, a national organisation working to reclaim and revive Indigenous languages across the country.
“We have to protect our languages … for a long time we weren’t allowed to speak our languages, and that’s how we’re in the predicament we’re in now,” she said.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne are also trying to tackle the issue, starting the 50 Words Project, which aims to record 50 everyday words in every Indigenous language possible.
The project has been running for a year and currently has around 65 First Nations languages recorded.
Researcher Rachel Nordlinger said the project is breathing new life into ancient languages, many of which have been dormant for decades.
“Indigenous languages are a really crucial part of Australia’s heritage … they’ve been the languages of this continent for more than 65,000 years,” Professor Nordlinger said.
The online audio library is linked to an interactive map which shows the country each language comes from.
Researchers hope the language library will be used as an education resource, and more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages can be embedded into the school curriculum.
“Obviously 50 words alone isn’t going to preserve a language,” Ms Nordlinger said.
“It’s just a tiny little snippet of a language, but all of Australia should be really proud and fascinated by these languages.”
Read more: ABC Australia