Multilingual Australia

Investigating Australia’s use of languages in the past and present
We explore how users of different languages experience Australia and examine the role of language in how people engage with and, ultimately, think of themselves as ‘Australian’ – or not.

Understanding Australia requires more than knowledge of the English language. Australia has always been multilingual in a variety of ways since it was populated by humans.

We offer a forum for those who investigate and document how migrants, travellers and others from non-English speaking countries have recorded and represented Australia in their own languages, and how being multilingual continues to shape Australia.

Our research seeks to change the way people imagine what an 'Australian community' might be when this idea is challenged and enriched through the multiple perspectives offered by sources in various languages.

The first way we aim to do this is to look at the way language usage has been shaped since 1788. By putting together stories of experience in multiple languages, our project aims to reorient the story of Australia.

Rather than treating language groups as separate ‘ethnic’ communities, we will link and compare stories in which identification with being ‘British’ is not at the centre of being Australian.

The second focus of our work is on contemporary uses of different languages and their relationships to culture, social relationships and politics in Australia.

Our research interests include:

  • how different languages are taught and researched in Australia
  • the social roles of translation
  • the ways that language policies have changed, especially since the middle of the 20th century.

We also look at changes within different languages in relation to migration, for example, the tensions between dialectical usage and standardised forms, which reflect distinct ways diasporic groups identify themselves; and processes of language maintenance/shift across generations.

Our projects

Led by Professor Adrian Vickers, Professor Yixu Lu, Associate Professor Giorgia Alù, Associate Professor Rebecca Suter, Dr Sophia Loy-Wilson, Dr Josh Stenberg, Dr Sonia Wilson, supported by Dr Andrea Bandhauer, Dr Judith Rozeboom and Dr Maria Weber as well as PhD scholars Eva Boleti and Samuel He.

Our project, funded by the Australian Research Council's Discovery Project scheme with a $949,564 grant (project number DP210101981), aims to mobilise Australia’s considerable and under-utilised non-English language resources to rethink our migrant and settler history.

For the first time, a rich multilingual archive will be used to examine Australia’s history from non-English perspectives. Outcomes include a framework outlining the role of language diversity in shaping Australian identity which will equip scholars, policymakers and the public to confront the challenge of cultural pluralism today.

Opening Australia’s Multilingual Archive projects include:

  • Italian internees and POWs, and Italian diaries and letters (Alù)
  • Italian and German internees in Australia during the two World Wars (Alù, Lu and Bandhauer)
  • German settlers and missionaries in Australia and New Guinea (Lu, Bandhaur, Veber)
  • Chinese theatre and literature in Australia, and Chinese perceptions of Australia (Stenberg)
  • Japanese perceptions of Australia (Suter)
  • French diaries and letters (Wilson)
  • Australia and Indonesia (Vickers)

Thanks to all who have expressed their on-going interest in our project. We're pleased to announce that our Opening the Multilingual Archive of Australia website is now public. The website will be updated continually, but we’re always open to feedback and suggestions of sources. The website also contains a database of all the non-English newspapers published in Australia. To view, click on ‘search the archive’ and then select ‘Newspapers’, and search at the bottom, select a language to see how many newspapers have been published in specific newspapers (who knew we had so many in Persian!).

Led by Dr Beatriz Carbajal. Translanguaging refers to the activation of resources from the students’ whole linguistic repertoire. While spontaneous translanguaging naturally occurs in multilingual contexts, its planned implementation in learning spaces has only started in the last decades.

This project examines the theoretical principles that guide the implementation of translanguaging in learning contexts, describes the diversity of purposes and forms that translanguaging can have, and identifies the challenges of breaking monolingual models.

Led by Associate Professor Antonia Rubino. This book explores multilingualism amongst young (aged 18-30) descendants of the Italian migration waves of the late 1960s and early 1970s, drawing on data gathered through an online survey and in-depth interviews.

Studies dealing with third generation migrants are still very scarce, hence this book will fill a research gap. The theoretical framework will draw on the literature on Family Language Policy and on motivation in L2 learning. 

Led by Associate Professor Wei Wang. This project aims to investigate the nature and impact of the transcultural agency Australian universities’ international graduates develop during their university course and post-graduation when they continue to live and work in Australian communities and workplaces.

Our people

  • Associate Professor Giorgia Alù, Italian Studies; International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies
  • Dr Andrea Bandhauer, Germanic Studies
  • Dr Beatriz Carbajal, Spanish and Latin American Studies
  • Associate Professor Novi Dwi Djenar
  • Dr Sophia Loy-Wilson, History
  • Professor Yixu Lu, Germanic Studies
  • Dr Cat Moir, Germanic Studies
  • Associate Professor Nina Rubino
  • Dr Judith Rozeboom
  • Dr Josh Stenberg, Chinese Studies
  • Associate Professor Rebecca Suter, International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies; Japanese Studies
  • Professor Linda Tsung
  • Professor Adrian Vickers, Asian Studies; Indonesian Studies
  • Associate Professor Wei Wang, Chinese Studies
  • Dr Maria Weber
  • Dr Sonia Wilson, French and Francophone Studies; International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies



The Multilingual Australia Reading Group holds meetings and talks during the semester. We discuss topics in a workshop-like atmosphere and invite contributions related to the designated theme.

For more information, contact Dr Sonia Wilson:

Hero image credit: View from Sims Island, Northern Territory with the Malay (Indonesian) fleet at the bay and the Indonesians whom Admiral King met in northern Australia. From the ‘Phillip Parker King album of drawings and engravings, 1802-1902’ collection of the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

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