As part of State Library’s commitment to the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, we will be promoting a ‘word of the week’ from one of the 125+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects from across Queensland.
State Library’s ‘word of the week’ for Week Twenty-Three is Bwgcolman [pronounced bwook-a-mun], from the Manbarra language of Palm Island. It means ‘many tribes, one people’. Another reference indicates it is the traditional name for Palm Island. The word coincides with Bwgcolman Day which is a day to honour and respect those in the community that were brought to Palm Island from their homeland.
The image above developed by the Palm Island Indigenous Knowledge Centre depicts the greetings for the ~95 language groups represented in the Bwgcolman Community.
Manbarra is the language of Palm Island and is linguistically connected to the mainland languages of Wulgurukaba and Nywaigi. It is believed that some of the words from Cleveland Bay collated by Curr in 1887 included words from Manbarra and Palm Island.
Tasaku Tsunoda, a Japanese linguist, worked on the language in the 1970’s and recorded Reggie Palm Island. Donohue in his work on Wulguru also lists word from Manbarra and identifies two dialects spoken on Palm Island: Mulgu and Buluguyban. Peter Sutton has also researched the Palm Island language. All of this linguistic work is held at AIATSIS.
Manbarra and the neighbouring languages from Townsville and Cleveland Bay are all considered endangered. The North Queensland Regional Aboriginal Corporation Language Centre supports language communities across the region.
State Library of Queensland invites you to celebrate the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages as we raise awareness of the rich diversity of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.
Join the conversation as we post a new word for each week!
Week Twenty-Three 4 – 10 June 2019.
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
Watson, J. (1993) Becoming Bwgcolman: Exile and survival on Palm Island Reserve, 1918 to the present. Available online via One Search.
Other materials in the State Library collections relating to Manbarra and neighbouring languages include the following:
Brayshaw, H. (1990) Well beaten paths: Aborigines of the Herbert Burdekin district, north Queensland: an ethnographic and archaeological study. G 306.0899915 1990
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, W. E. (1898-1903) “Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903.” FILM 0714
Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names. Q 994.0049915 tin
View of sunset from Palm Island, ca. 1949. JOL Negative No. 53289.