Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics


Something Somewhere Arrpenhe-nthenhe 2017 | Indigenous Language film program

Mother Tree

8 minutes | Eastern Arrernte | 2016

Story by Therese Ryder

Directed by Akeyulerre, Maya Newell and Blake Kendall

This is a dreamtime story about a dangerous dingo that wants to eat two children, stalking them as they hunt for animals and collect plants on their country. The story is full of drama and tragedy, yet also reveals the strength of anpernirrentye – Arrernte family relationships.

The film is one of a series made by and for Arrernte families through Akeyulerre, the Arrernte Healing Centre in Alice Springs.

Ngaltunytju ‘compassion’

3 minutes | Pitjantjatjara | 2016

Featuring Maringka Burton

Filmed and edited by Rhett Hammerton

This short film is about the concepts of ngaltunytju ‘compassion’ and mukulya ‘love’ as described by Maringka Burton. Maringka is a ngangkari, a traditional healer, and works in the Ngangkari team and the Uti Kulintjaku (think and understand clearly) project at NPY Women’s Council. This film is one of a series that speak directly to new workers planning to work with Anangu people. While they are aimed at training and orientation, the messages they convey are powerful and universal.

Produced by NPY Women’s Council


3 minutes | Ngaanyatjarra | 2013

Story and translation by Lizzie Marrkilyi Ellis

Camera and editing: Jennifer Green and Inge Kral

This film is about a group of women visiting a waterhole on Marrkilyi’s country near Tjukurla called Pangkupirri. The story is simple, bringing together the familiar elements of family, place and travel. It is told in the classical Ngaanyatjarra style of mirlpa – using a story wire to mark the rhythmic beat of the story and to create symbols and tracks in sand. The vocal delivery is characteristic of the style, with some words pronounced on the inward breath and the liberal use of tongue taps and clicks.

Lizzie Ellis is a Ngaanyatjarra linguist and translator of many years experience. She and her research colleagues Inge Kral and Jennifer Green recorded many stories from Ngaanyatjarra and Ngaatjatjarra people in 2012-13, as part of a project to record the valuable and endangered storytelling traditions in the Western Desert.

Produced by the Australian National University and the Research Unit for Indigenous Language at the University of Melbourne.

Artnwer ‘Desert Dingo’

13 minutes | Alyawarr, English | 2016

Directed by David Tranter

Narrated by Michael Liddle

As Michael Liddle says, ‘there are a lot of dingo song lines in Central Australia’. This film follows a group of men from Ali Curung travelling behind a pair of young dingoes as they head north to Mornington Island. Ali Curung is a customary English spelling of the Kaytetye word alekerenge. This can be broken down into aleke‘dog’ and the ending ‑arenge ‘belonging to’. It is the place that belongs to the wild dog. The men sing the songs for this country as they travel and explain the connections between language groups along the route of the wild dog ancestor.

This beautifully shot film features Donald Crookhat Thompson, the senior Alyawarr custodian of the Dingo Dreaming along with Frankie Holmes, John Duggie, Casey Holmes and Sonny Mick – all Kemarre brothers. Crookhat speaks in Alyawarr and the other men also use English mixed with Alyawarr. The men slip easily between languages – a reminder that English is an Aboriginal language too.

CAAMA Production.

Warlungka – Language lived through song

15 minutes | Mudburra, English, Kriol | 2016

Lyrics and music by Eleanor Dixon, Raymond Dixon, Janey Dixon

Recorded and edited by Elise Frederickson, Yasmin Smith

Father and daughter music duo Raymond and Eleanor Dixon take us to the heartbeat of Australia’s centre with lyrics that are filled with tales of the Mudburra people’s homeland, Marlinja. Known as Rayella, the duo have achieved national success, performing with the Opera Australia Chamber Orchestra on a Barkly Arts showcase tour and with Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes).

Alongside enjoying the spotlight, recording an EP and preparing a touring show for 2018, Rayella are teaching Mudburra songs to children in Marlinja. As Eleanor says, “Some kids today don’t speak Mudburra in a full sentence. They sort of mix it up with Kriol, speaking English with maybe one word in Mudburra. Our goal is to get the kids to remember the Mudburra words.” This simple yet ambitious goal is shared by many Indigenous people around Australia, who are learning and teaching their linguistic heritage through the arts. This film resonates with the beauty of the Mudburra wetlands, the richness of Eleanor Dixon’s voice and the powerful sound of Mudburra children singing their language.

Produced by Rayella and Felicity Meakins

Ngapa yawulyu

8 minutes | Warlpiri | 2017

Film by Warlpiri women from Yuendumu

Produced by Georgia Curran

Camera, sound and editing by Anna Cadden

Across a broad area of central Australia, yawulyu (Warlpiri) or awelye (Arandic languages) are performed by groups of women. They are sung individually or together in longer series of songs as they trace the journeys of dreaming ancestors as they travelled across country. In this film Warlpiri women sing, dance and paint up with some of the yawulyu that make up the Ngapa ‘rain’ song series. Nellie Nangala Wayne and Enid Nangala Gallagher present the accompanying stories. The film is one of a set of four that accompany a book, soon to be published, called Yurntumu-wardingki juju-ngaliya-kurlangu yawulyu: Warlpiri women’s songs from Yuendumu (2017, Batchelor Institute Press)This book is the product of a long term collaboration between a group of juju-ngaliya ‘knowledgeable business women’ from Yuendumu and anthropologist Georgia Curran.

Kardiyarlu kangurnu

26 minutes | Warlpiri | 2015

Stories by Jerry Jangala Patrick, Tess Napaljarri Ross, Jack Jangala Cook and Cecil ‘Crocodile’ Japangardi Johnson

Directed and animated by Simon Japanangka Fisher, Shane Jupurrurla White, Jason Japaljarri Woods, Dennis Jupurrurla Charles and Jonathon Daw

This film takes us into the memories and imaginations of Warlpiri and Anmatyerr elders as they talk about the things that came with kardiya ‘europeans’. Starting out in the sober style of the oral history interview, the screen soon pops with hilarious animations of a child’s shock at seeing a white woman, speculations about the source of tinned meat and experiments in taste testing rabbits for the first time.

PAW Media Production in association with NITV.

The Stone Houses

16 minutes | Arrernte, English | 2016

Filmed and edited by Maya Newell

Back in the 1950s at Santa Teresa mission, young men wishing to marry would build a house from local stone, to live in with their new wife. The stone houses made up a village, and many children were raised there. These are the generation of senior Eastern and Central Arrernte people who live in Alice Springs and Santa Teresa today. A mission priest, Father Tom Dixon, filmed scenes of everyday life in the village and this footage has recently been digitised and shown to the elders who once lived, worked and played in the village of stone houses. This is a profoundly moving encounter.

Produced by Mary Flynn and Maya Newell for the Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation and Jesuit Social Services.

The artwork in this post shows part of a mural on the Yeperenye Centre in Alice Springs. The mural depicts plants and animals from the Central Desert with their names in Arrernte. This significant public work was created by team of artists including Therese Ryder and Jenny Green in 1991.