Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop, 7-10 December 2015.

Nga-chan-ji Tribe, Roth (1901).

Nga-chan-ji Tribe, Roth (1901).

Final preparations are underway for the State Library’s annual Indigenous Languages Research Discovery Workshop to be held in December. This research event is aimed at language workers and community members who are currently working/have an interest in traditional languages and supporting language revival programs in communities. It allows language workers and community members to explore the collections for materials relating to their languages and/or dialects.

Moreton Bay language - Finch 1842.

Moreton Bay language – Finch 1842.

Such materials include historical materials dating back to the early 1800’s. Thomas Pamphlett, a shipwrecked convict, spent several months with local Aboriginal people and documented some words. In 1842, Charles Wray Finch sent his son Edward to Moreton Bay with a flock of sheep accompanied by Jemmy Ruine an Aboriginal from Molongo (NSW); during their stay Edward documented over 100 words of the Moreton Bay language.

Ridley Notebook extract - parts of the body.

Ridley Notebook extract – parts of the body.

Missionaries provide some of the earliest documentation of Aboriginal languages and the State Library holds copies of some of these early materials. Rev Eipper at German Station (Nundah) collected words in 1841-42; Rev Ridley notebooks from the 1850’s include wordlists from South-East Queensland.

HMS Rattlesnake - comparative wordlist (1852).

HMS Rattlesnake – comparative wordlist (1852).

During this period, survey ships were mapping the Queensland coastline. HMS Rattlesnake charted the coast stopping in at several locations including Somerset on Cape York where Brierley collected over 500 words from the local Gudang language. The ship continued onto the Torres Strait recording languages from Prince of Wales Island as well as three dialects from New Guinea. The State Library holds original and facsimile copies of this rich resource of Queensland’s traditional languages.

Meston Notebooks - Stradbroke Island animals.

Meston Notebooks – Stradbroke Island animals.

More recent materials include diaries, journals and pastoral records as well as published linguistic research. Significant items include the material of W E Roth and Archibald Meston who both served as Chief Protectors of Aborigines in Queensland. Barlow, Watson, Holmer, Sharpe, Blake, Ray, Schnukal and Breen are some of the linguists that have researched and published materials on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages of Queensland.

Holmer - Linguistic Survey of South-East Queensland.

Holmer – Linguistic Survey of South-East Queensland.

The Margaret Lawrie Collection is a treasure trove of language, culture and genealogical material relating to the Torres Strait Islands. Items include artwork, games, family histories, songs and stories.

Myths and Legends of the Torres Strait, Q 398.2099438 MYT .

Myths and Legends of the Torres Strait, Q 398.2099438 MYT .

The above items are a brief selection of the diverse range of language materials to be found in the State Library Collections. Once the program is finalised an Expression of Interest will be sent out through State Library’s language networks; we encourage language workers and community members to make the most of such research opportunities and welcome your attendance at the December workshop.

If you are interested in attending this research event, please contact me at the State Library.


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory.

SLQ Indigenous Languages webpages


References and Further Reading

Barlow, H. (1865) Harriet Barlow Manuscript. Provides the basis for her work “Aboriginal Vocabularies of Queensland”. OM91-69

Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Australia Pacific Linguistics, Canberra. J 499.15 bre

Curr, E. M. (1887) The Australian Race: its origins, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. John Ferres Government Printer: Melbourne. RBF 572.994 cur

Edwards, R. (Ed) (2001) Dictionary of Torres Strait languages. Rams Skull Press: Sydney. Q 499.1503 RAY

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Lawrie, M. The Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Straits Materials. TR2082

Lawrie, M. (1970) Myths and legends of the Torres Strait. University of Queensland Press: St Lucia. Q 398.2099438 MYT

Mathew, J. (1975) ‘On the Kabi dialect of Queensland’. Photocopied from the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, v. 9, 1880, pp. 312-317 VF 499.15 mat

MacGillivray, J. (1967) Narrative of the voyage of H.M.S. Rattlesnake… [Facsimile Edition] J 919.04 M’GI 

Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers Undated. OM64-17

Ridley, W. (1866) Kamilaroi, Dippil and Turrabul: languages spoken by Australian Aborigines. Government Printer: Sydney. RBJ 499.15 rid

Roth, W. (1975) Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland Aboriginal peoples 1898-1903. (Microfilm) Material drawn from Queensland ethnography: bulletin, nos. 11-18 / by Walter E. Roth. FILM 0714

Sharpe, M. (2005) Grammar and texts of the Yugambeh-Bundjalung dialect chain in Eastern Australia. Lincom: Munich. Q 499.15 sha

Shnukal, A. (1988) Broken, an introduction to the Creole language of Torres Strait. ANU Pacific Linguistics: Canberra. J 427 shn

Watson, F. J. (1941) F J Watson Papers 1941 OM73-20

Watson, F. J. (1944) “Vocabularies of four representative tribes of South Eastern Queensland”; supplement to the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia (Queensland), No. 34, Vol XLVIII. REFJ 499.15 wat