language_groups

Reflecting the history of dislocation and dispossession of Indigenous people in the ‘settled’ areas, few people supplied a heritage country – but 436 named at least one language group (and many named several) with which they identified. This did not necessarily mean that they could speak the language or indeed that there were any speakers of the language left. Rather it was a reflection of the importance of this information to their identity as Indigenous people in 21st century Australia.

There were significant variations between states. 126 people in NSW cited at least one language group, only 6 people less than the total number of NSW resident artists in the survey. In Queensland by contrast, only 81 gave a Queensland language group, compared with the 120 resident there, possibly reflecting the particularly harsh history of Indigenous government policies in that state. In Victoria, 45 more people reported a Victorian language group than a Victorian place of birth. The movement into Victoria from other states noted already was confirmed by there being at least 42 artists currently living in that state who reported neither a Victorian language group nor a Victorian birthplace. The numbers who reported a South Australian language group (49) and/or a South Australian birthplace (45) were only about half those currently resident in the state. In Western Australia, 47 artists provided a local language group compared with the 60 who had been born in the state and/or currently resided in the survey area, and in Tasmania, slightly more people (22) reported a Tasmanian place of birth than a Tasmanian language group (18), whereas 36 were currently resident.

There were some startling disparities in the numbers of people identifying with particular language groups. In NSW, 36 of the 126 people who provided this information gave Wiradjuri (Waradgerie, Wirradjeri) as at least one of their language groups, 29 gave Kamilaroi (Gamilaroi, Gamillaroi, Gamilaraay, Kamileroi, Kamillaroi, Gamilarray, Gamiaraay, Goomeroi)[1], 16 Bundjalung and 15 Dunghutti. Smaller numbers, often as few as one or two persons, reported affiliation with another 32 NSW language groups. In Queensland, where 59 different language groups were identified by 81 members of the sample, most were represented by only one individual. There were 21 different language groups provided within South Australia, with Kokatha (16) and Ngarrindjeri (13) cited the most often. Yorta Yorta (32), Gunditjmara (24), Gurnai/Kurnai (21), Kirrae Wurrung (19) and Wemba Wemba (13) were the language groups most frequently cited of the 21 Victorian language groups represented in the survey. In Western Australia, 15 language groups were cited with Noongar by far the most often identified (28 of 47). Palawa was named as language group by 5 of the 18 artists who gave a Tasmanian language group, with 11 giving Trawlwoolway, one of 7 other Tasmanian language groups identified in the survey.

This map is just one representation of many other map sources that are available for Aboriginal Australia. Using published resources available between 1988–1994, this map attempts to represent all the language or tribal or nation groups of the Indigenous people of Australia. It indicates only the general location of larger groupings of people which may include smaller groups such as clans, dialects or individual languages in a group. Boundaries are not intended to be exact. This map is NOT SUITABLE FOR USE IN NATIVE TITLE AND OTHER LAND CLAIMS. David R Horton, creator, © Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS and Auslig/Sinclair, Knight, Merz, 1996.

This map is just one representation of many other map sources that are available for Aboriginal Australia. Using published resources available between 1988–1994, this map attempts to represent all the language or tribal or nation groups of the Indigenous people of Australia. It indicates only the general location of larger groupings of people which may include smaller groups such as clans, dialects or individual languages in a group. Boundaries are not intended to be exact. This map is NOT SUITABLE FOR USE IN NATIVE TITLE AND OTHER LAND CLAIMS. David R Horton, creator, © Aboriginal Studies Press, AIATSIS and Auslig/Sinclair, Knight, Merz, 1996.


[1] From here on the spelling of each language group has been standardised. All the variations have been included on the DAAO.