Indigenous First Language

ALNF is excited to be contributing to the important revival, maintenance and revitalisation of Indigenous First Languages through our award-winning work developing literacy resources and teaching strategies in a number of oral languages.

Making connections between Indigenous Australian First Language and English is vital for the development of personal and community health, welfare and education. First Language reading and writing instruction provides learners with the relevant and essential brain stimulation that can assist English language and literacy learning, retention and fluency.

ALNF provides a number of interrelated First Language programs and strategies that aim to firstly address instruction in First Language literacy, and secondly, assist in developing connections and comparisons to English language and literacy development.

The Living First Language Platform 

The Living First Language platform preserves and revitalises Indigenous First Languages and turns them into dynamic, community-led and interactive digital literacy apps. In 2019, the platform won in its category of ‘Innovation in Connecting People’ at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Innovation Awards in Austin, Texas. We are incredibly honoured to be a recipient of this prestigious award, which is a win for First Languages in Australia and has the potential to impact individuals and communities across the globe.

In Australia, First Languages are disappearing at a faster rate than anywhere in the world despite a universal acknowledgment that language plays a vital role in the health, wellbeing, education and future of Indigenous peoples.  The Living First Language project harnesses technology in order to stem the tide of loss of First Languages and empower children to become learners in their Mother Tongues. ALNF’s technological solution offers a faster and more scalable means to efficiently and effectively capture and share languages.

Within Australia alone, 81,100 people  identify as the speaker of an Indigenous language and 276,300 people who identify language as part of heritage. Globally, there are over 350 million Indigenous people across 90 countries worldwide. Yet, we can all benefit from this project, which will raise awareness of Indigenous languages and make them more accessible.

ALNF hopes that the impact of this initiative goes beyond preservation of Language, and that the platform serves to strengthen communities, bridge cultural divides, foster resilience, encourage literacy and puts First Language back into community members’ hands.

Expression of Interest in the Living First Language Platform


Coding Aboriginal Languages for Indigenous Literacy (CALIL)

CALIL is an Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) accredited program that equips community participants with the skills to collect, categorise and convert oral First Language elements into effective reading and writing resources (see also Reading and Writing in First Language below).

To develop and refine the CALIL process, the ALNF collaborates with Indigenous elders who indicate the correct pronunciation of letter strings and words. To facilitate quick and accurate print pronunciation representation whilst reading, the ALNF and CALIL participants devise an accurate reading code for the local language(s).

By converting oral First Languages into reading and writing courses, the ALNF and local communities can provide community members with the teaching and learning skills and strategies that empower them to teach their own children to read and write in their First Languages.

Literacy in First Language(s) can also help children by giving them the skills to make comparisons and contrasts with English language and literacy.


“I am alive again. Listen! Language is life. You have given me language. You have given me life. I am alive again.” Warumungu Elder, NT. 

Learning to Read and Write in First Language

Reading and Writing in First Language is perhaps best described as a method of decoding and encoding that teaches phonics, whole-word recognition and vocabulary through multisensory instruction.

The Reading and Writing in First Language Course uses First Language resources collected through the CALIL program. The course teaches adults how to teach others (both children and other adults) to read in First Language.

The course has a very practical, hands-on focus with emphasis on practicing the strategies, so that individuals can confidently work with others after the course has finished.

First Language (FL) Workshops

First Language Workshops are mini workshops designed to mentor and support First Language instructors by providing participants with strategies and resources that facilitate effective learning engagement and literacy acquisition.

These workshops assist participants in reviewing and expanding their repertoire of teaching and learning strategies and in developing additional resources for language stimulation and literacy skill development.

Please note that these programs are reading programs. Existing linguist and language worker documents that have previously recorded these languages are relied on in the development of reading resources.

Other Programs

Make A Difference

  • $30 You can provide extra learning support to Indigenous preschoolers.
  • $80 You can provide a child with a Literacy Pack filled with books and reading resources.
  • $120 You can train an Indigenous mentor to provide support to primary school children
  • $5 $5 a month for a year will provide vital learning materials for a child in a remote community.
  • $10 $10 a month for a year will provide a child with a Literacy Pack filled with educational resources and books.
  • $20 $20 a month for a year will provide a preschool student with learning support to successfully transition to school.