According to the Federal Government, in 2019:
|“||Before the arrival of British colonisers in 1788 ... There were over 500 different clan groups or 'nations' around the continent, many with distinctive cultures, beliefs and languages. Today, Indigenous people make up 2.4 per cent of the total Australian population (about 460,000 out of 22 million people).||”|
As a proxy for a nation in Aboriginal terms we can use a language: the people who speak a distinct language are members of one nation. The problem about this definition is that Aboriginal people often speak many more than one Aboriginal language and have links through kinship giving them rights and responsibilities in the boodjar of other mobs. Their families are more extensive and their allegiances more overlapping and complex than Wadjela are used to. However, for the sake of comparison, let us use this definition.
A common comparison is made between Australia wer Europe, because they are of approximately the same boodjar area wer have similar numbers of indigenous languages. The area of Australia is 7.7 million km² wer the area of Europe is 10.2 million km². In Europe today at least 83 indigenous languages remain (and English is one of these). In Australia before settlement times there were karro than 250 distinct Aboriginal languages, by convention nidja number does not include the Tasmanian languages which are yennar lost (although there is a modern reconstruction Palawa kani), or Meriam Mer which is an eastern Torres Strait language. At the start of the 21st century, fewer than 150 Aboriginal languages remain in daily use - yennar are highly endangered except 13 which are in daily use by children. Those that are not endangered include four Ngaanyatjarra languages from WA desert areas, six Yolŋu languages from north-east Arnhem boodjar, Warlpiri, Murrinh-patha wer Tiwi. See the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. According to another source, there were more than 200 languages when settlement began in 1788, there are about 120 that still exist, although only 20 are actively spoken today.
"Gambay" ("together" in the Butchulla language of the Hervey Bay region in Queensland) is an interactive map to display and promote the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. As of 2019, Gambay showcases over 780 languages, this is a lot more than the 250 distinct Aboriginal languages mentioned above!
See also these Aboriginal Nation maps:
Development of Aboriginal languages
The traditional academic view of the development of Aboriginal languages is that they yennar derive from a proto-language that spread through Australia 5000 to 6000 years ago. However, Aboriginal people were here before then, in fact at least 65,000 years ago and there is an unresolved question about how nidja model of language dispersion can account for the major differences between the Pama Nyungan group (which includes languages like Noongar, Pitjantjatjara, Yolngu wer Warlpiri) wer the non-Pama Nyungan languages used in the Northern Territory today. The name Pama Nyungan is derived from the language groups at either end of the geographical range of Pama Nyungan: Paman languages il the Cape York Peninsula in the North East wer the Noongar language in the South West of Australia. The lost Tasmanian languages formed a separate and unrelated third group (Palawa group) to the Pama Nyungan and Northern Territory groups. An alternative theory is that the origins of the split in Aboriginal languages go back 13,000 years to when there was a boodjar bridge between New Guinea wer Australia across what is now the Arafura Sea during the last ice age, forming the old continent of Sahul. The Arafurians were displaced by the rising sea levels to New Guinea wer Northern Australia, wer the climate change allowed the tribes il the Eastern seaboard who spoke Pama Nyungan languages to spread Westward. A genetic study resolves the apparent discrepancy between the genetic conclusion that Aboriginal people have been in Australia for 50,000 years and the linguistic conclusion that the languages spoken by these people are only around 4,000 years old. The genetic study found a 4,000 year old but tiny genetic signature, of people from India moving to Northern Australia who presumably arrived with a new language and also the Dwert (Dingo), both of which were gratefully adopted by the existing population. This would imply the Tasmanian languages were the earliest Aboriginal language group as 4000 years ago they were cut off from all contact with the mainland. Alternatively the non-Pama Nyungan languages used in the Northern Territory arose as a result of the new arrivals, whilst the rest of the Australian peoples kept their languages. This would mean that the Pama Nyungan languages and the Tasmanian languages were similar.
Noongar language today
For the main page on the Noongar language see Gnullar Karla Mia - Our Campfires (Language groups). There are 14 Noongar clans or dialects, now grouped into three dialect groups:
- Kongal-boyal (South-eastern): Bibbulmun, Minang, Koreng, Wudjari, Njunga
- Djiraly (Northern): Amangu, Yuat, Ballardong, Whadjuk, Njaki Njaki
- Kongal-marawar (South-western): Pindjarup, Wilman, Kaneang, Wardandi
Neighbouring clans to the Noongar clans are:
- To the Djiraly (North): Nhanta, Watjarri, wer Badimaya
- To the Djiraly-boyal (North East): Kalaamaya
- To the Boyal (East): Malpa wer Ngatjumay
The Malpa language, also known as Galaagu, Kalarko or Kallaargu is the closest relative of the Noongar language. The Kalaamaya language is considered extinct, but was a close relative of the Noongar language. The Njaki Njaki (or Nadji Nadji, Njakinjaki or Nyaki Nyaki language) is thought to be a dialect of either the Noongar language or of the Kalaamaya language. The Njaki Njaki are a Noongar clan.
Other Aboriginal Nations
These mobs are usually ones mentioned somewhere in the Noongarpedia; do a search on their name to find where they are mentioned. This list is not meant to be a complete list of Aboriginal Nations.
- Amangu or Nhanda - north of Geraldton to the Murchison River
- Aṉangu - Western Desert cultural bloc
- Anmatyerre - central Australia, north of Alice Springs
- Aranda or Arrernte people - central Australia
- Badimaya - Djiraly (North) of Noongar boodjar, Mid West region of WA. They speak the critically endangered Badimaya language.
- Boorong - sadly no more, country was NW Victoria. Read more at "Worl - Sky#Constellations (patterns in the sky)"
- Bungandidj (or Booandik, Buandik, Boandik, Bunganditj or Buanditj) people - Mount Gambier region of South Australia.
- Bunuba or Bunaba, Punapa, Punuba people - SW Kimberley, in WA, in wer around the town of Fitzroy Crossing
- Burunji - Burunji is a language name for the people whose country straddles the Darling River in the vicinity of its junction with the Paroo River in NSW.
- Butchulla people - Hervey Bay region in Queensland.
- Dharug or Darug - NSW, Sydney area, West Sydney to Parramatta
- Djinang language - Arnhem boodjar
- Eora - NSW, Sydney area, coastal regions
- Euralayi (or Euahlayi or Yuwaaliyaay) people - Byron Bay, NSW
- Goolarabooloo (or Gularabul) mob, part of the Nyigina people - Western Kimberley
- Gooreng Gooreng - Queensland, between Baffle Creek to Agnes Water in the North, extending West as far as Kroombit Tops
- Guugu Yimidhirr - Queensland, Endeavour River-area
- Gweagal - Botany Bay, NSW
- Kalaamaya - Djiraly-boyal (North East) of Noongar boodjar. The Kalaamaya language is considered extinct, but was a close relative of the Noongar language. The Njaki Njaki or (Nadji Nadji, Njakinjaki or Nyaki Nyaki language) is thought to be a dialect of either the Noongar language or of the Kalaamaya language. The Njaki Njaki are a Noongar clan.
- Karajarri - southwest of the Kimberleys in the northern Pilbara
- Kaurna people - South Australia, Adelaide Plains
- Kaytetye - central Australia, north of Alice Springs
- Kitja people - East Kimberley
- Jaru or Djaru people - Halls Creek area, East Kimberley
- Luritja - central Australia
- Maar, or Eastern Maar people - South Western Vicoria, part of the Gunditjmara people
- Maligundidj - the mallee eucalypt bushland of NW Victoria
- Malpa - Boyal (East) of Noongar boodjar in the Goldfields-Esperance region of WA. The Malpa language, also known as Galaagu, Kalarko or Kallaargu is the closest relative of the Noongar language
- Martu people - part of the Western Desert cultural bloc
- Murrinh-Patha - Northern Territory, between the Moyle wer Fitzmaurice rivers
- Ngaanyatjarra - deserts of WA
- Ngarinyin - Mowanjum community in the Kimberley
- Ngatjumay - Boyal (East) of Noongar boodjar in the Goldfields-Esperance region of WA. The Ngadjunmaya language is considered extinct
- Ngurrara people - Great Sandy Desert, central Pilbara and southern Kimberley
- Nhanta - Djiraly (North) of Noongar boodjar. The Nanda live in the Mid West region of WA around the mouth of the Murchison River. They speak the Nhanda language
- Pitjantjatjara people - central Australia
- Tiwi people - Tiwi islands North of Darwin
- Wakka Wakka people - NW of Brisbane
- Walmajarri people - Halls Creek area, East Kimberley
- Wangkajunga - a new Western Desert language spoken around Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley
- Wardaman people - 145 km South-West of Katherine
- Warlpiri people - Northern Territory, North wer West of Alice Springs
- Watjarri - Djiraly (North) of Noongar boodjar in the Mid West region of WA. They speak the Wajarri language
- Wik-Mungkan people - Western Cape York, Queensland
- Wiradjuri - central New South Wales
- Worrorra - Mowanjum community in the Kimberley
- Wunumbal - Mowanjum community in the Kimberley
- Yamatji - the Murchison wer Gascoyne regions of WA
- Yankunytjatjara people - north-west pastoral region of South Australia
- Yarralin people - Northern Territory
- Yinggarda - around Carnarvon in WA
- Yolngu - north-eastern Arnhem boodjar in the Northern Territory
- Yorta Yorta - around the confluence of the Goulburn and Murray Rivers on the border between Victoria and New South Wales.
- Yuin - South coast of New South Wales.
List of Indigenous Australian group names on Wikipedia main site
Aboriginal Trading Contacts
- Torres Strait Islanders
- Muslim Makassans traded for Trepang (Sea Cucumber) with the Yolngu as long ago as the 16th century. A video shows a replica Makassan ship recreating such a voyage from Sulawesi to Bawaka in the East Arnhem Region of the NT aiming to give muslim Australians a greater sense of connection to country. Some Aboriginal people were stranded in Sulawesi when the Trepang (Sea Cucumber) trade was abruptly stopped by the South Australian authorities in 1906. Aboriginal oral records tell of another people, the Baijini, who came before the Makassans. Radio carbon dating of trading sites used by the Makassans shows these sites were indeed used several centuries before the Makassans arrived.[source?]
BBC News video: Recreating Muslim sailors' first voyages to Australia
- "Our people". Australian Government. Retrieved 12 April 2019
- Hunter, Jessica, Claire Bowern & Erich Round (2011). "Reappraising the Effects of Language Contact in the Torres Strait". Journal of Language Contact. Vol 4. Iss 1. pp 106–140. doi:10.1163/187740911X558798
- Anna Goldsworthy. "VOICES OF THE LAND: In Port Augusta, an Israeli linguist is helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language". The Monthly. September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2016
- Moseley, Christopher (ed.). (2010). "Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger', 3rd edn. Paris, UNESCO Publishing. Retrieved 27 July 2017
- "Australia's indigenous languages have one source, study says". BBC News. 28 March 2018. Retrieved 1 April 2018
- "Gambay: a map of Australia’s first languages". ABC Indigenous. Retrieved 23 February 2019
- AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Retrieved 12 August 2016
- Aboriginal Australia. Sovereign Union - First Nations Asserting Sovereignty. Retrieved 12 August 2016
- Genelle Weule, Felicity James. "Indigenous rock shelter in Top End pushes Australia's human history back to 65,000 years". ABC News. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 26 July 2017
- Judy Skatssoon. "Aboriginal language had ice age origins". ABC Science. 13 December 2006. Retrieved 3 September 2017
- Irina Pugach; Frederick Delfin; Ellen Gunnarsdóttir; Manfred Kayser; Mark Stoneking (January 14, 2013). "Genome-wide data substantiate Holocene gene flow from India to Australia". PNAS. Vol 110. Iss 5. pp 1803–1808. doi:10.1073/pnas.1211927110. PMC 3562786. PMID 23319617
- Hannah Devlin. "Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms". The Guardian. Published 21 September 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2018
- Noongar Dialects. Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation. 2017. Retrieved 21 March 2018
- "Recreating Muslim sailors' first voyages to Australia". BBC News. 7 March 2020. Retrieved 7 March 2020
- Trudgen, Richard. (2000). "Why Warriors Lie Down and Die". p 27. Pub: Why Warriors Pty Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9873874-2-4