Mackay Language Recording Workshop

Port Mackay – G F Bridgeman (1870).

Language revival and maintenance in Mackay has been a priority for a group of dedicated Yuwibara descendants. State Library of Queensland commenced working with the group in early 2015 in creating a body part language video with ABC’s Mother Tongue project producer Dan Battley.

Draft Yuwibara Community Dictionary.

The small list available at the time from George Bridgeman [collected in 1870] has now grown into a collection of over one thousand words with the discovery of historical wordlists.

Miromaa – Mackay database.

These words have been added to Miromaa dictionary maker and have now been recorded with the purpose of using them to create an app that will be shared with the community. In the first week of May State Library of Queensland partnered with Queensland Narrating Services (QNS) to start recording the thousand words that had been added to Miromaa over the last few years. QNS bring their expertise in this area including training, equipment and post-production sound processing. Dudley Denny City Library was a great location for the recording workshop with two small spaces that were turned into mini recording studios.

Uncle George speaking with Mackay North SHS students.

Prior to our visit the group worked with a linguist for a fortnight going over the words, categories and sounds ensuring correct use of the words, correct spelling and pronunciation. The words were divided into categories such as body parts, kinship, birds, marine life, human artefacts and many more. As the speakers became more confident with the recording equipment as well as pronunciation of words, the recording sessions were getting quicker.

Norell recording with Uncle George

Norell who has played a big part in assisting with the revitalising of language in Mackay liaised with Mackay North SHS Community Education Counsellor Laurel in organising a group of young aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to attend the workshop. The students ranged in age from 12 to 16 and were all keen to contribute to recording words for the App.

Mackay participants.

The future of the language depends on interest from the younger generation and it was good to see this group of young adults were certainly that.


Rose Warsow

Indigenous Languages Project Officer, kuril dhagun

State Library Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages webpages


References and Further Reading

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. RBF 572.994 cur

Roth, H. L. (2009) The discovery and settlement of Port Mackay, Queensland: with numerous illustrations, charts and maps, and some notes on the natural history of the district. Q 994.36 ROT

Terrill, A. (1998) Biri. Munchen: Lincom. J 499.15 TER

Whitley, G. P. (1936) “Aboriginal names mostly of marine animals from North Queensland”, in Mankind, Vol. 2., No. 2. S 572 007