The 2019 Word of the Year was inspired by growing calls for a legislated Indigenous 'Voice to Parliament'.

Voice: a formal channel for Indigenous input into the making of laws and policies affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The term voice has been given a major shout-out from the nation’s premier word watchers, being named by the Australian National Dictionary Centre as Australia’s 2019 Word of the Year.

Each year the Centre, based at The Australian National University (ANU), picks a word or expression that has gained prominence in the national conversation in the last 12 months.

According to Director Dr Amanda Laugesen, the idea of an Indigenous voice to parliament’ came to national attention following the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which called for a ‘First Nations Voice’ to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

“We saw voice increase considerably in usage through 2019; it was also central to our public debate,” Dr Laugesen said.

“The issue was reignited by Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, who proposed a legislated voice to government, prompting heated discussion about what form a voice should take, and what it means.

“Professor Marcia Langton has noted this lack of definition in the debate about voice, and called for much more precise language to be used.”

Voice was chosen from a shortlist of prominent terms.

“From our list we like to choose a term that is distinctively Australian,” Dr Laugesen said. “Voice was the front runner.”

The words on the shortlist reflect a number of events that had an impact in 2019.

“Climate-related terms were significant this year,” Dr Laugesen said. 

“Fish kill was a term we became familiar with after seeing fish die at Menindee Lakes in January.

“Climate emergency, Oxford Dictionaries’ international Word of the Year, increased considerably in usage in Australia throughout 2019. Both of these made our shortlist.”

The full 2019 shortlist includes:

  • climate emergency: the immediate threat posed by climate change and global warming.
  • fish kill: the sudden death of a large number of fish in a single event.
  • influencer: a person who uses their profile on social media to promote products and services.
  • quiet Australians: those Australians regarded as holding moderate opinions but who are unlikely to express them publicly.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre undertakes research into Australian English in partnership with Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, and edits Oxford’s Australian dictionaries.

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world’s largest university press with the widest global presence.

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