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  • The designs are the collaboration of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Royal Australian Mint.

    The designs are the collaboration of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the Royal Australian Mint. | Photo: Royal Australian Mint

Published 10 April 2019

The new designs display 14 different translations of the word "coin" from across multiple Indigenous languages native to the continent of Australasia.

Australia has issued new-look 50 cent coins, featuring more than a dozen local Indigenous words - several of which are at risk of being extinct, to mark the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.

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"These coins are a celebration of Australia's unique and diverse Indigenous [peoples and] languages, we hope the coins will serve as a tangible reminder of the important efforts being undertaken to preserve, protect and revitalize indigenous languages in Australia," Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid said in a statement.

The new designs display 14 different translations of the word "coin" from across multiple Indigenous languages native to the continent of Australasia.

"Indigenous languages carry more meaning than the words themselves, so too does currency carry meaning beyond its monetary value. The release of these coins is another milestone in recognizing the diverse cultures that shape our national story of over 60,000 years," Craig Ritchie, CEO of Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), said in a statement.

The designs are the collaboration of AIATSIS and the Royal Australian Mint.

The coins were unveiled by AIATSIS CEO and Co-Chair of the UNESCO International Year of Indigenous Languages Steering Committee, Craig Ritchie; Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney, Professor Jaky Troy; Kaurna representative, Jack Buckskin; and Royal Australian Mint CEO, Ross MacDiarmid in Adelaide on April 8.

Since the beginning of record-keeping in the 1950s, hundreds of the world’s Indigenous languages have been extinct.

In Australia alone, some 130 Indigenous languages have disappeared. According to the a recent report of the Second National Indigenous Languages Survey, which was published in 2014, only about 120 Indigenous Australian languages are still spoken today; compared to more than 250 in 1788.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) currently lists over 1,000 languages around the world as severely or critically endangered.

The United Nation General Assembly officially proclaimed 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages.

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