Over tens of thousands of years, more than 700 Indigenous languages and dialects have been spoken by Australia’s First Nations people on their lands.
However, protecting and revitalising Indigenous languages and culture are yet to be adequately recognised in national approaches to literacy.
As a multilingual nation, it is important that essential services are accessible to people who do not have English as a first language.
This is why the Department of Human Services employs Indigenous Customer Service Officers who can communicate with customers in their own languages.
At Maningrida Service Centre, in heart of Arnhem Land, Angela has been a Service Officer for two years.
Maningrida is a very remote community in the Northern Territory, on the coast of North Central Arnhem Land. The population of Maningrida is around 2,600- including those living in outstations around the main township.
“I grew up in Maningrida and I like living in Maningrida” says Angela. “In this community we speak 7 different languages, but we can understand each other. I speak Burarra, and my second language is Yolngu Matha.”
As a former customer who transitioned to working for the department, Angela’s contributions have been warmly received by community members.
“The community think it’s really good we’re talking in language. I can explain to them how to fill out forms, what payments they can get” she explains.
Angela has strong ties to her community members, and these relationships drive her passion for her role at the Maningrida Service Centre.
“I love to give back to community and help all the Traditional Land Owners” Angela says proudly.
“My favourite thing is listening to my Grandfather and my Mum tell me stories about our history. It helps me build my knowledge and keep my culture strong. And that’s the main thing.”