In 1788 there were between 300 and 700 Indigenous languages spoken across Australia by millions of people, as shown in anthropologist Norman Tindale’s 1974 map. However in the Australian 2016 Census, only around 160 of these languages were reported as being spoken at home.
Linguistically speaking, Australia is special. With around 250 languages spoken when Australia was first colonised, Australia was one of the most linguistically diverse places in the world. But few people speak our Indigenous languages. As of 2016, only 10% of Australia’s Indigenous population spoke an Indigenous language at home. Most Indigenous languages are now “asleep”, waiting to be woken up by language revivalists.