Relationships between the use of Indigenous languages and wellbeing indicators in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, 2014–15

Terry Ngamandarra Wilson, Gulach (detail), painting on bark, private collection © Terry Ngamandarra, licensed by Viscopy, 2016
Author/editor: Dinku, Y, Markham, F, Dreise, T and Hunt, J
Publisher: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
Year published: 2022
Issue no.: 142
Page no.: 29


Indigenous languages form a vital part of Indigenous culture, identity, worldviews and ways of living. Aboriginal Australians have repeatedly asserted that individuals, families and communities can achieve better life outcomes if they maintain or develop knowledge and use of Aboriginal languages. However, evidence that rigorously quantifies the statistical relationship between the use of Aboriginal languages and wellbeing is limited. Using data from the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) and applying cross-sectional regressions, this study examines the link between the use of Indigenous languages and a range of wellbeing indicators for the New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) sample. We find that speaking an Indigenous language is related to some better wellbeing outcomes in the cultural, social, health, educational and economic domains. The positive relationships relating to general self-reported health, post-school qualifications and earnings suggest that the wellbeing benefits from the use of Indigenous languages are much wider spread than the realms of culture and identity.

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