It beat shortlisted terms including “climate emergency”, “fish kill”, “influencer” and “quiet Australians” to take out the annual title awarded by the Australian National Dictionary Centre.
The term rose to prominence this year after the Uluru statement called for a “First Nations voice” to be enshrined in the Australian constitution.
Dr Amanda Laugesen, director of the dictionary centre at the Australian National University, said it referred to the need for indigenous Australians to have a formal channel for input.
The centre presents the title to the word or expression they believe best sums up the year.
“We saw ‘voice’ increase considerably in usage though 2019; it was also central to our public debate,” she said.
“The issue was reignited by indigenous affairs minister 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.”
The dictionary centre undertakes research into Australian English and edits Oxford’s Australian dictionaries.
Dr Laugesen said the research found that climate-related terms were also significant in 2019.
“Fish kill was a term we became familiar with after seeing fish die at Menindee Lakes in January,” she said.
“Climate emergency, Oxford dictionaries’ international word of the year, increased considerably in usage in Australia throughout 2019. Both of these made our shortlist.
Macquarie dictionary’s word of the year “cancel culture” was announced last week.
“Cancel culture” refers to the act of boycotting public figures or products when they do or say the wrong thing.
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