To commemorate the International Year of Indigenous Languages the Royal Australian Mint has created a new coin with a design that shows 14 different Indigenous words for ‘coin’.
The new 50 cent piece was developed in consultation with 14 Indigenous groups across Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).
The languages used range from the Meriam language used in the Torres Strait Islands, to the Kaurna language used in Adelaide, to the Noongar language used in south west Western Australia.
“Indigenous languages carry more meaning than the words themselves, so too does currency carry meaning beyond its monetary value,” said AIATSIS CEO and Co-Chair of UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages Steering Committee Craig Ritchie.
“The release of these coins is another milestone in recognising the diverse cultures that shape our national story of over 60,000 years.”
A survey conducted by AIATSIS in 2014 found that languages are essential to the Indigenous Australian identity and that connections to language strengthen self-image and well-being in Indigenous communities.
According to the same survey, only 120 out of more than 250 languages known to be spoken in 1788 have survived into 2019.
“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,” said Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid.
The coin has been in circulation since April 8th and was unveiled by Mr Ritchie, Mr MacDiarmid, Kaurna man Jack Buckskin, and University of Sydney’s Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Professor Jaky Troy.
By Hannah Cross