Ngunnawal language to open ACT Legislative Assembly a landmark moment in nation’s fight for First Nations’ voice


Canberra’s local Indigenous Ngunnawal language has been formally introduced into the proceedings of the ACT’s parliament, following a successful tripartisan motion led by the ACT Greens. 

This is the first time an Australian parliament will formally include the language of the traditional custodians in their Acknowledgement of Country at the start of every sitting day.

The Greens motion called on the ACT Legislative Assembly to:

  • Use a Ngunnawal language introduction at the beginning of each sitting day;
  • Consult with member of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council and other recognised Ngunnawal elders in order to agree on the appropriate use of words;
  • Make cultural awareness training available to all Members of the Legislative Assembly; and
  • Use these Ngunnawal words to formally recognise that the Assembly is meeting on the lands of the Ngunnawal traditional custodians each sitting day, by October 2020.

“Across this country, we must acknowledge that First Nations People have a unique relationship with the land and water—that their rights and obligations as custodians must be respected—and that sovereignty was never ceded,” ACT Greens leader Shane Rattenbury said today.

Hearing Ngunnawal language in the Chamber each sitting day is a meaningful way of revitalising traditional language, noting that in times gone past there have been periods when speaking it was forbidden. This significant action of the Legislative Assembly will hopefully help with redressing some of the impacts of colonisation and prevent local First Nations culture from further being endangered. 

“The nation has a long way to go before we recognise sovereignty and achieve reconciliation, and it’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can to contribute to this important reckoning.

“Today we come together as a parliament, united, to advance the cause of recognition and reconciliation in our Territory.”

In May 2018, the offices of ACT Greens MLAs Shane Rattenbury and Caroline Le Couteur  formalised their commitment to reconciliation by launching a Reconciliation Action Plan. The commitment to deliver a motion requiring acknowledgement of country in Ngunnawal was included in this Plan.