This week the Royal Australian Mint announced the release of a commemorative 50 cent coin for the International Year of Indigenous Languages! The new coin features the word for ‘money’ in fourteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages from across Australia. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) collaborated on the initiative which included consultations with the fourteen language groups represented on the new coinage.
The concept of ‘money’ or ‘coins’ was not an element of traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and was introduced post-contact. Most words referring to money or coins are based on ‘stones’ or ‘rocks’ due to the similar appearance of coins. In the example, above from Yuwaalaraay, banggul or ban.gu is used for money – traditionally it referred to small flat stones.
The fourteen languages referenced on the coin include three from Queensland:
- bakir from Meriam language of Eastern Torres Straits
- mulu from the Yugambeh language of South-East Queensland
- nambal from Guugu Yimithirr language of Hope Vale and Cooktown region in Far North Queensland
All of these words traditionally referred to ‘stones’ and were later adapted for coins. The Royal Australian Mint has developed an interactive website that provides more details on the 14 languages and where to obtain further information.
This is a great initiative from the Royal Australian Mint to raise awareness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages as part of the International Year for Indigenous Languages.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map
UN IY2019 Links
UN International Year of Indigenous Languages webpages
UN International Year of Indigenous Languages Resources
Royal Australian Mint
“International Year of Indigenous Languages commemorated with new coins” online article.
Royal Australian Mint: Media Release.
Other materials in the State Library collections relating to the three Queensland languages featured on the coin include:
Allan, J. and Lane, J. (2001) The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh region. P 499.15 all
Ash, A., Giacon, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2003) Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay Dictionary. J 499.1503 GAM
Boyd, J. (2013) Bakir and Bi. Illustrated by Tori-Jay Mordey. JUV 823.4 BOY
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
De Zwaan, J. (1969) A preliminary analysis of Gogo-Yimidjir: a study of the structure of the primary dialect of the Aboriginal language spoken at the Hopevale Mission in North Queensland. Q499.15 dez
Edwards, R. (ed) (2003) Dictionary of Torres Strait languages. Q 499.1503 RAY
Haviland, J. (1979) ‘Guugu Yimidhirr’, in Handbook of Australian languages. Vol 1. J 499.15 HAN
Lawrie, M. The Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Straits Materials. TR2082
Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) “Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903.” FILM 0714
Sharpe, M. (2005) Dictionary of Yugambeh (including neighbouring dialects). Q 499.15 sha
Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper Names. Q 994.0049915 tin
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