Say “G’day” in an Indigenous language!

Many Australians can say ‘bonjour’ or ‘konnichiwa’ for hello in French or Japanese, but how many people know how to say g’day’ in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language?

How many people know the name of their local Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language?

Do you know any words from your local Indigenous language?

Are there place-names, landmarks or even house names that reflect the traditional language of your area?

Did you know that in Queensland there are over 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and dialects?

Over 100 Queensland Indigenous languages/dialects!

Today only about 30 are spoken on a daily basis!  Of these only 3 are classed as strong or thriving languages; the remaining languages are classed as endangered! State Library has an Indigenous Languages Strategy which aims to document, preserve and promote the rich diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages across Queensland. Activities such as language workshops, online resources and digitisation support community groups, language centres and language workers in community language revival. We are continually looking for new ways to promote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in the wider Queensland community.

Say G’day wordle in Queensland Indigenous languages.

The State Library of Queensland in partnership with Yugambeh Museum, Language and Heritage Research Centre, Indigenous Language Centres and other community groups are excited about this new initiative for NAIDOC Week 2014.

“Say G’day in an Indigenous Language!”

During NAIDOC week, State Library would like to encourage Queenslanders to be part of the week! We ask you to find out about your local Indigenous language and discover the local word for ‘g’day’ and use it during NAIDOC Week.  This action is a simple, yet effective way to raise awareness of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Flyer for the “Say G’day” initiative.

A good starting point to identifying your local community language is the State Library’s Indigenous Languages Map of Queensland. This interactive map allows users to explore regions and towns across Queensland and identify the traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages from that area. Hyperlinks will take the reader to items within the State Library collections that relate to that particular language.

State Library Queensland Indigenous Language Resources Map.

From this starting point, research and talk to local community organisations to find out their local word for ‘G’day’ or ‘Hello’ and use it during this week.

  • Talk to your local community to find out the word and how to say it!
  • Use your library, IKC, language centre to research other local words!
  • Are there other words for greetings/welcome, etc.?
  • Share this new greeting with friends, families and others during the week!

Yugambeh words from Yugambeh Museum’s website.

The State Library and Yugambeh Museum will have some wordlists on their websites to get you started and don’t forget to follow the conversation on Twitter – we will be using  the following hashtags: #saygday #indigenouslanguages #naidocweek.

Have a great week with the “Say G’day” Campaign and don’t forget to share your stories with others, including State Library. Hopefully this initiative will raise awareness of Indigenous languages in your community and support the ongoing revival and maintenance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages in Queensland.

Note: there is an updated blog post on State Library’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Blog featuring over 100 language greetings!

Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, kuril dhagun

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages blog

References and Further Readings:

The following items in State Library collections can help you find out more about your local Aboriginal or Torres Strait islander language; perhaps even the word for “G’day”!

Aird, M. (1996) I know a few words: Talking about Aboriginal Languages. Keeaira Publications: Southport. G 499.15 1996

Allan, J. and Lane, J. (2001) The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh region. Kombumerri Aboriginal Corporation for Culture: Beenleigh. P 499.15 all

Ash, A., Giacon, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2003) Gamilaraay, Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaalayaay Dictionary. IAD Press: Alice Springs. J 499.1503 GAM

Barlow, H. (1865) Harriet Barlow Manuscript. Provides the basis for her work “Aboriginal Vocabularies of Queensland”. OM91-69.

Bell, J. (1994) Dictionary of the Gubbi-Gubbi and Butchulla languages, compiled with the assistance of Amanda Seed. Jeannie Bell: Brisbane. G 499.15321 1994

Bell, J. (2004) Dictionary of the Butchulla language. Korrawinga Aboriginal Corporation: Hervey Bay. G 499.15 2004

Blake, B. and Breen, J. G. (2007) An illustrated dictionary of Yulluna by domains. Yulluna Land Council and James Cook University: Mount Isa. J 499.51 ILL

Breen, J.G. (1981) The Mayi Languages of the Queensland Gulf Country. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Press. J 499.15 bre

Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Australia Pacific Linguistics, Canberra. J 499.15 bre

Dixon, R. M. W. (1972) The Dyirbal language of north Queensland. London: Cambridge University Press. G 499.15 1972

Dixon, R. M. W. (1991) Words of our country: stories, place names and vocabulary in Yidiny, the Aboriginal language of the Cairns-Yarrabah region. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press. G 499.15 1991

Edwards, R. (Ed) (2001) Dictionary of Torres Strait languages. Rams Skull Press: Sydney. Q 499.1503 RAY

Helon, G. (1994) The English-Goreng Goreng-English dictionary. Gurang Land Council: Bundaberg. G 499.15 1994

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL

Mathew, J. (1910) Two representative tribes of Queensland: with an inquiry concerning the origin of the Australian race. T Fisher Unwin: London. J 306.0899915 MAT

Patz, E. (2002) A grammar of the Kuku Yalanji language of north Queensland. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 PAT

Sharpe, M. (1998) Dictionary of Yugambeh, including neighbouring dialects, compiled by Margaret Sharpe from various sources: Pacific Linguistics C-139. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. G 499.15 1998

Terrill, A. (2002) Dharumbal: the language of Rockhampton, Australia. Pacific Linguistics 525. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. J 499.15 TER

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


Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS):

Our Languages:

State Library of Queensland Indigenous Languages webpages:

Yugambeh Museum website:

Listen to Indigenous Languages at State Library:

Re-told: A re-telling of stories and songs from Myths and legends of the Torres Strait.

Caring for Language. Hear Aunty Ethel Munn, Gunggari Elder talking about the importance of caring for language.

Ngampa Kugu ngampara Thayan Piamu (Keeping Language Strong). A digital story on a Language Research Discovery Workshop held at State Library in March 2012.