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The maintenance and transmission of cultural and biological diversity is crucially linked to the maintenance of linguistic diversity. The task of maintaining Indigenous languages is multifaceted, with activities including language documentation, reclamation and revitalisation strategies, resource development, literature production, educational activities (such as language nests, school and community language programs), archiving of data, development of specialist tools, and training at all levels for people involved in language maintenance activities.

These wide-ranging activities have by and large been developed and undertaken on the basis of interests and needs identified by individuals, communities and organisations. This has seen exciting initiatives launched and comprehensive expertise acquired in all facets of language revitalisation and maintenance. However, in the past there was very little pooling of expertise, and similar information requests and problems were faced by those wanting to engage with Indigenous languages at the local level. As each practitioner has varying levels of expertise related to the type of language work they have experienced, a need was identified for sharing ideas and techniques to promote good methodologies which result in more productive outcomes for speakers and practitioners.

It is within this scenario that the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity was founded in 2004 by Margaret Florey and Nick Thieberger as a resource organisation with a broader focus than any of the individual activities or programs. The need for a comprehensive approach to Indigenous language activities had been apparent for some time — to support linguistic diversity by offering training programs, networking between language maintenance practitioners, and maintaining a website of resources.

The National Indigenous Languages Survey (NILS) Report 2005 noted that "The Resource Network for Language Diversity (RNLD) is an important initiative to provide support links online, or through on-site training for people working on languages especially in remote regions." NILS Recommendation 52 was implemented in 2009 when RNLD first received funding under the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records grant scheme.