New South Wales was the first part of Australia to be colonised and so the
written records of the state’s Indigenous languages go back more than 200
years. The body of linguistic information that has accumulated over that
period is considerable, but it is also very uneven in its quality and
coverage. The Handbook distils this information in a way that makes it
easily accessible to a broad audience.
The Handbook combines the functions of both a guidebook and a dictionary.
It runs to just over 830 pages and is divided into two parts: the first
part is a survey of the Indigenous languages of NSW and the ACT (including
Aboriginal English), giving information about dialects, locations, maps,
and resources available for language revitalisation; the second part
provides word-lists in practical spelling for 42 distinct language
varieties. There is also useful information on sign languages and kinship
classification, as well as an appendix on place names.
The Handbook is a valuable reference and educational resource, useful to
Aboriginal people who want to revitalise their languages and to those in
the broader community who simply want to know more about the state’s rich
linguistic heritage. It will be particularly helpful in the planning and
implementation of primary, secondary and tertiary educational programs
dealing with Aboriginal languages and linguistics.