2019 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF INDIGENOUS LANGUAGES: WORD OF THE WEEK – WEEK TWENTY-THREE.

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 IYIL2019 Word of the Week: Week 23.

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.

Palm Island greetings.

The image above developed by the Palm Island Indigenous Knowledge Centre depicts the greetings for the ~95 language groups represented in the Bwgcolman Community.


View of sunset from Palm Island, ca. 1949. JOL Negative No. 53289.

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.

No. 124 Cleveland Bay, Curr (1887)

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.

Desmond Crump

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

Sources:

Palm Island Council

Watson, J. (1993) Becoming Bwgcolman: Exile and survival on Palm Island Reserve, 1918 to the present. Available online via One Search.

Further Reading
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.

Websites

Palm Island and Our People – State Library Exhibition

Palm Island Council

Palm Island Indigenous Knowledge Centre