Residents explore SLQ collections

2016 Indigenous Languages Residents.

2016 Indigenous Languages Residents [Annie, Nathan, Gooroomarra, Samuel and Leann with Des.]

The 2016 Indigenous Languages Residency was another successful research event held recently at the State Library of Queensland. For a week in June, four community members from across Queensland were able to access SLQ’s heritage collections to assist their community language work.

HMS Rattlesnake - comparative wordlist (1852).

HMS Rattlesnake – comparative wordlist (1852).

This year, State Library was able to offer four residencies as previous experience has shown that small group research tends to be more effective as community members can share ideas and explore other lines of research. Researchers can also point out other sources for language research, including original materials such as journals, pastoral records, diaries, maps and other primary sources.

Torres Strait Islands, Shnukal (1985).

Torres Strait Islands, Shnukal (1985).

The 2016 residents and their research interests are as follows:

  • Nathan Schreiber from Yarrabah, who is actively involved in teaching Gunggandji language in the school and community
  • Samuel Aniba, originally from Saibai Island and now Cairns, who is interested in supporting the large number of Torres Strait Islanders living in mainland communities
  • Annie Gela, originally from Erub Island and now Rockhampton where she actively supports the Torres Strait Islander community
  • Leann Pope from Bundaberg (Central Queensland Language Centre), who researched several languages from across the region.
Flowers and fruit of mangrove 'Biu' Watercolour image from Yam Island [Margaret Lawrie Collection TR 1791]

Flowers and fruit of mangrove (biu) for kamu sagul. [Margaret Lawrie Collection TR 1791]

Popular items for the week included the Margaret Lawrie Collection and the Archibald Meston Papers which contain a rich trove of cultural knowledge and customs as well as language content. There were also lesser known materials such as the Wilhelm Rechnitz Papers from the Torres Strait as well as the Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others by Walter Roth.

Ku-in-ma-ba-ra Tribe, Torilla.

Ku-in-ma-ba-ra Tribe, Torilla.

The above image is one of several Central Queensland vocabularies collated by Roth and included in his reports as Chief Protector for Northern Queensland. Roth used a template to collect local vocabularies of everyday words from across the region that came under his control – often pastoralists and police officers provided assistance in documenting words from local Aboriginals.

Meston Notebook 8 - Plants.

Meston Notebook 8 – Plants.

It was a great week and the participants all went away with a better insight into the collections and how State Library can assist their community language  revival. The Indigenous Languages Residency is an annual event and will be offered again in June 2017.


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, Queensland Memory.

SLQ Indigenous Languages webpages


References and Further Reading

Brockett, W. (1836) Narrative of a voyage from Sydney to Torres’ Straits, in search of the survivors of the Charles Eaton : in His Majesty’s colonial schooner Isabella, C.M. Lewis, Commander. Henry Bull: Sydney. RBJ 910.45 BRO

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

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

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

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

Dr Wilhelm Rechnitz Papers 6341