With the planet’s dwindling number of languages rapidly becoming extinct, and many people focusing on learning fictional languages like High Valyrian, with there even being an app for Game of Thrones’ tragics or Klingon for Trekkies, what better time to remind us of the rich culture of our First Nations?
To this end, the Royal Australian Mint has Launched a new 50c piece to commemorate, 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019).
The special coin’s design incorporates 14 translations for ‘coin’ from some of the many Indigenous languages in Australia.
And the words themselves provide insights into a rich etymology, with the Gathang for example, from the NSW Central Coast, using dhinggarr, meaning “grey”, perhaps due to the colour of most coins, and walang “head”, presumably in reference to the monarch on the coin. The Wiradjuri, from the same area, also use walang, but in this case it means “stone”.
The 50c piece’s design was developed in consultation with 14 Indigenous language groups from around Australia, including the traditional people of Adelaide, the Kaurna people.
“These coins are a celebration of Australia’s unique and diverse Indigenous languages, we hope the coins will serve as a tangible reminder of the important efforts being undertaken to preserve, protect and revitalise Indigenous languages in Australia,” says Mint CEO, Ross MacDiarmid.
MacDiarmid says languages are central to the identity of Indigenous Australians and the second National Indigenous Languages Survey conducted in 2014 by AIATSIS recognised that remaining connected to language strengthens well-being and self-esteem in Indigenous communities.
The AIATSIS CEO and Co-Chair of the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages Steering Committee, Craig Ritchie says: “Indigenous languages carry more meaning than the words themselves, so too does currency carry meaning beyond its monetary value.”
“The release of these coins is another milestone in recognising the diverse cultures that shape our national story of over 60,000 years.”
In Australia, of the estimated original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages that were in known use in 1788, only 120 Australian Indigenous languages are known to be spoken today, according to the Languages Survey.
The rest of the world is not doing much better, with over 40 per cent of the planet speaking just eight languages, with English rapidly becoming the lingua franca of Earth.
Lead Image: The new 50 cent coin with 14 indigenous languages on the reverse.
Image Credit: Royal Australian Mint
For further details about the languages featured on the coins, please visit: https://www.ramint.gov.au/2019-50c-international-year-indigenous-languages