Mpakwithi and Guugu Yimidhirr children’s books

Pama Language Centre was established in 2015 to work with the language nations of Cape York Peninsula to record, revive, revitalise and maintain their ancestral languages.

Amongst the many projects and activities that the Centre is involved in is publishing and selling books in traditional Cape York languages. These languages include Mpakwithi and Guugu Yimidhirr and the texts appear in colourful children’s picture books.

Mpakwithi is a First Nation language of Cape York Peninsula traditionally spoken around Tent Pole Creek and these are the first texts ever to be published in this language.

Mpakwithi is a Northern Paman language whose speech community has been reduced to 4 elders – three women in New Mapoon and one in Weipa. There are no fluent speakers remaining. The three women in New Mapoon – known collectively as the Kennedy sisters – have memories of their grandfather speaking this language until his death sometime in 1985. Some Mpakwithi words are used in everyday conversation.

The custodians of Mpakwithi work with a Pama Language Centre linguist in reviving their beautiful language, by developing children’s books, ebooks, songs and learning programs that will make it possible to transmit Mpakwithi to future generations.

Amra Niighi Laenae is written and illustrated by Victoria Kennedy and is an original story about the adventures of four friends on their way to the beach.

Judy, Chwe Nje ’Wa, written and illustrated by Agnes Mark is an autobiographical story about a little girl and her dog and is one of three colourful texts.


Therra Kaffry, written and illustrated by Susan Kennedy is a song about the cheeky Kaffry.

Other recently published works through the Pama Language Centre are Guugu Yimidhirr language books by Hopevale teachers Lillian Bowen and Irene Hammet.

Guugu Yimidhirr language nation was the first Aboriginal people whose language was partially recorded by James Cook and Joseph Banks in 1770. One of the recorded words was “kangurru”, which has been borrowed into most of the world’s languages.

Gudaa Bula Dyugi-dyugi is about a chook who very much wants to be friends with a dog and tries hard to work out whether it’s a good idea or not.

Gudaa Bula Dyugi-dyugi Activity Sheets, by Karin Calley (Pama Language Centre) and Lillian Bowen is a beautiful book of colourful and engaging work sheets which has been developed to accompany the book Gudaa Bula Dyugi-dyugi and supports classroom teaching and home learning of Guugu Yimidhirr language.

Dharnggan, by Irene Hammett is a true story from her childhood and is the first in a series of children’s books to be published in Guugu Yimidhirr. 



Bidhagurr Wuurili Bunhdhiwi, Is another of Irene’s books illustrated by her daughter, award winning Hope Vale artist Donna Cobus.

Yuwalin  is a lovely book of poems in Guugu Yimidhirr by Irene Hammett.

All books have an English translation and links to a URL with an ebook which is read aloud by the author, further linguistic information and other resources.

The books will be accessible through One Search at the State Library of Queensland once they have been added to the catalogue.


Rose Warsow

Indigenous Languages Project Support Officer, State Library of Queensland


State Library Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages webpages


Further Reading

Gordon, T. and Haviland, J. (1980) Milbi: Aboriginal tales from Queensland’s Endeavour RiverJUVQ 398.20994 GOR

Haviland, J. (1979) ‘Guugu Yimidhirr’, in Handbook of Australian languages. Vol 1. J 499.15 HAN

Hope Vale Community Learning Centre (2006) Mangal-bungal: Clever with hands, baskets and stories woven by some of the women of Hopevale, Cape York Peninsula. P920.72 MAN

King, P P (1969 – facsimile edition) Narrative of a survey of the intertropical and western coasts of Australia : performed between the years 1818 and 1822. J 919.402 KIN

Koko Yalanji and Koko Yimidir people – spoken word Bible lessons. QKIT 781.629915 KOK