Aboriginal languages to become a new HSC subject from next year.

Aboriginal languages will become a new HSC subject from 2016 after a decade of planning.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli announced the move on Monday, saying the new course would “help maintain this critical part of Aboriginal cultures”, Fairfax Media reports.

Since 2005, students have been able to study Aboriginal languages from kindergarten to year 10.

From next year, Year 11 and 12 students can also study the languages – a positive move, according to University of Sydney Indigenous education lecturer John Hobson.

“There are quite a few people who want to progress to studying it in their HSC, but that hasn’t been possible and now it is, so that’s a great thing,” Mr Hobson told Mamamia.

He said the majority of students who studied Aboriginal languages were non-Indigenous and developed a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture, which they often shared with their families.

Mr Hobson – director of the university’s graduate indigenous education program, which trains Aboriginal people to teach their languages – says the study of Aboriginal languages also has wider benefits.

“A lot of schools when they implement Aboriginal language programs allow Indigenous students to get a head start for reasons of cultural sensitivity,” he said.

“It allows them to become the experts, gives them status within the school and ensures they don’t feel disenfranchised in terms of their culture. Then, the schools open up the course to everyone else.

“Those schools report better reconciliation outcomes and improved self-esteem for Indigenous students, which bleeds through to their other subjects.


“It can also lead to a greater appreciation of Indigenous culture and the improved status of Aboriginal people in the town, so it’s really a win-win.”

The course is a content-endorsed court, so will not count towards a student’s ATAR score. But it means that, unlike the more structured language courses, students who haven’t previously studied Aboriginal languages can pick up the subject in their HSC.

About 19 of the 35 Aboriginal languages across the state are being taught in schools, and more than 100 dialects. The course syllabuses are developed in consultation with local indigenous communities.

Mr Hobson said, like many second languages, there were limited practical opportunities for students to apply their Aboriginal language skills, but studies found learning a second language improves brain functioning and academic capability.

NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Leslie Williams said: “This course will aid Aboriginal young people to become the future custodians and caretakers of their languages and empower them to maintain a strong sense of identity.”

“For non-Aboriginal young people it will provide them with a deeper understanding of the world’s oldest living culture,” Mrs Williams said.

Out of the 35 Aboriginal languages across the state, about 19 – and more than 100 dialects – are being taught across NSW.

In Victoria, more than 1000 students are learning indigenous languages, including in VCE.