The short answer is that there is no official language in Australia, but in reality the situation is a little more complex.
For all official documents which are needed to support a government application such as a visa or citizenship application, these must be in English. If the original documents are not in English, then they must be translated by an accredited professional translator into English and certified that they are accurate translations of the original. If the translation takes place within Australia, then the translator must be accredited with the official accreditation authority, NAATI.
The sorts of documents that are regularly translated into English are:
- Birth certificates
- Marriage certificates
- Divorce certificates
- Employment records
- Educational and technical qualifications
- Police certificates
While there is no official language in Australia, the main language is definitely English. The written English used is closely related to the English of Britain, although there are a few differences in spelling.
English is regularly spoken by over 80% of Australian residents and citizens at home as a first language, even if a significant percentage of these people are bilingual or multilingual.
When European occupation of Australia began there were as many as 400 different indigenous languages, some of which were mutually intelligible, being more dialects than anything else. None of these languages has become adopted as either an official language or a national language of Australia in the same way as the indigenous language of neighbouring New Zealand did (Maori). Many indigenous languages have either died out or are in danger of disappearing. Where one of the 70 odd indigenous languages that have survived is still widely used (mainly in the north of Western Australia, the Northern territory and Queensland), professional translators help to bridge the gap when it comes to providing government services.
There are many other languages used in Australia, which belong to the sizable immigrant populations in that country. The six most important languages based on the numbers of people who speak that language at home are: