Djinang ga Wurlaki documentation project

CALL is working with a team of Djinang and Wurlaki people to document their language and to create more language resources for use in schools and the community. This project has been supported by the Priority Language Support program through First Languages Australia, and by the Australian Commonwealth’s Indigenous Languages and Arts program.

This work builds on earlier work by Bruce Waters, who compiled a dictionary database and wrote a detailed grammar of Djinang and Djinba. These are valuable resources, although a bit hard for the community to use. We are grateful to AuSIL for their support of this project and to Bruce Waters for providing the database for the project. In 2015 Stanley Djalarra Rankin and Margaret Carew produced two films about the Marrangu Miwal songline, and this was a stepping stone towards more work on this language.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Wurlaki woman KB and Anita Berghout worked together on a dictionary and learners guide for Djinang and Wurlaki. Sadly, KB passed away before the project was completed and for a number of reasons these works didn’t reach the publication stage.

Now the team is determined to see their dictionary published in a form that is useful for the community and school. The dictionary will feature animals, plants and seasons, because this is an important area of knowledge that Djinang and Wurlaki children should learn. The team is led by senior Murrungun woman Margaret Rinybuma, KB’s mother. It includes Simon Pascoe, Margaret’s grandson and KB’s son, and so is a multigenerational effort. Also part of the team are: Stanley Djalarra Rankin, Eric Pascoe, Leonie Pascoe, linguists Isabel O’Keefe and Rebecca Green, and anthropologist Craig Elliott. They are supported by the extended family of Djianng and Wurlaki people, who are all keen to see the dictionary come out.

In June 2017 the Wurlaki and Djinang people entered into a new Memorandum of Understanding with Wulagi Primary School in the Darwin suburb of Tiwi. This MOU governs a new sister school relationship between Wulagi Primary and Gamardi Homeland School. The school at Gamardi is one of the schools serviced by Maningrida College in Maningrida. Through this relationship Wulagi Primary plan to implement an Indigenous Language and Culture program which will support Wurlaki and Djinang people to teach at the school. This will happen through visits to the school, through video-conferencing and through excursions and camps to Gamardi in the future.

As of July 2018 we are trialling a new browser based platform for the Wurlaki and Djinang dictionary. This will continue to develop over the coming months and will present dictionary entries along with audio and images. The Wurlaki and Djinang team have decided to call their dictionary Itjipili galngi, which means ‘Child and mother’. This expression captures the inter-relatedness of the different dialect groups that make up the Wurlaki and Djinang language group. These dialects belong to different moieties, just as do a child and his or her mother. The word itjipili means ‘child’ and galngi means ‘body’ and together this expression captures the importance of a mother’s body, that creates and nutures a child.