When you think about Bible translation, which countries pop up in your head first? Probably not Australia.
Australia is generally thought of as a white Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking country. But in fact, Australia has an Indigenous population of 500,000, speaking over 200 distinct languages – different from each other and certainly different to English! Though many Indigenous Australians speak English, for most, it isn’t their first language, which means an English Bible translation won’t speak to their heart. For this reason, Wycliffe Australia and partners are working with these language groups to translate the Bible and make the Scriptures accessible to Indigenous Australians.
The Kriol Bible, the first full Bible in an Indigenous Australian language, was launched in 2007, and represented a major milestone in Australian Bible translation history. It marked a change in the status of Australian Indigenous languages. Australia has a sad history of racism and lack of respect for Indigenous languages and culture. Despite Kriol having over 30 000 speakers, when the Kriol translation project started all those years ago, Kriol was a despised language, and some people doubted it was even possible to translate the Bible into Kriol.
Starting a Bible translation project in Kriol put the language on the linguistic map, recognising it as a language in its own right, and brought appreciation and respect to a marginalised people group. Over 100 people were involved in the Kriol Bible translation, and it took 30 years to complete.
Though the wait for a full Bible in an Australian Indigenous language has been long, the first Scripture portions were published in the Indigenous language Ngarrindjeri as early as 1864!
The Torres Strait Creole Shorter Bible, released in July 2014, was the thirteenth New Testament or Shorter Bible published (a shorter Bible includes parts of the Old Testament as well the New Testament) in this part of the world. Smaller portions of the Bible have also been published in 30 more Indigenous languages. Some of the Bibles are available online – check them out for yourself!
Kriol is considered an Indigenous language, even though it is a pidgin-type language based on English.
Is it news to you that Australia needs Bible translation? Take a look at this page for an overview of how many people are still waiting for the Bible in their language, and where these languages are spoken.