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Indigenous Studies Guide: Language & Communication

Find information for your assignments and research related to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander topics

Wadda Mooli

Wadda Mooli means welcome, good-bye and greetings in the Birrigubba language which is the language spoken by the Bindal People of the Townsville area. 

According to linguists at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, "agreed at the time of arrival of Europeans, over 250 Indigenous languages existed". These languages then divide into several hundred dialects.

Depending on the linguists or authors each language may have multiple spelling variations for example Bidjara or Pitjara are the same.

Variations of Aboriginal English, Kriol/Creole and Torres Strait Islander Kriol/Creole (also known by other names) have evolved since 1788. These are dialects of English and sometimes separate languages that are shaped by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages and speakers.

How to search for quality literature

Searching for Indigenous languages can be challenging so using a combination of key words and adding similar and/or related words may yield greater results, see search string examples below: 

  1. Indigenous AND language AND Australia
  2. (Aboriginal OR "Torres Strait") AND (languages OR dialect OR creole OR kriol OR ESL) AND "Thursday Island"
  3. (Aboriginal OR "Torres Strait" OR Indigenous) AND (language OR terminology OR word OR tongue) AND (Australia OR Queensland OR Tasmania) 

What's in our collection?

Language Dictionary, Databases and Weblinks

AIATSIS has developed two databases dedicated to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Each database serves a particular purpose. OZLIB is a linguistic bibliography of Aboriginal Australia and the Torres Strait Islands where as AUSTLANG provides information about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander languages. 

Additional resources

Accessing these institutions collections will broaden your horizon regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language, culture, history and experiences.

Interactive Language Map

Gambay map of Australia's first languages

Gambay: A map of Australia's first languages

Gambay showcases over 780 languages, using data contributed by regional language centres and programs working directly with language communities around Australia. Website courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Keeping traditional language alive in the Torres Strait

The Torres Strait Traditional Languages Centre coordinates regional and community-specific efforts to retrieve, record and research our traditional languages. The Centre has a community capacity building focus.


Torres Strait Traditional Languages Map

Source: Ober, D. (2017). Torres Strait Language Symposium May 2017: Languages and Dialects of the Torres Strait. Torres Strait Regional Authority. Please click on image to view map. 

Public Lectures by University of Melbourne Research Unit for Indigenous Languages

Public Lectures from October 2015 to December 2019

  • Re-Awakening Kaurna, the Language of Adelaide Plains by Jack Kanya Buckskin and Associate Professor Robert Amery
  • The genius of Australian Indigenous Languages, and why they are important for all of us by RUIL Director Rachel Nordlinger 
  • Our Languages Matter, Kulinin? by Sam Osborne and Karina Lester 
  • Something lost, something found: Kriol of Northern Australia by Greg Dickson and Grant Thompson 
  • Aboriginal Memories of the inundation of the Australian Coast by Professor Nicolas Reid 
  • The revival of Victorian Aboriginal languages - RUIL Public Lecture by Paul Paton and Mandy Nicholson 

To watch selected public lectures from above list, please click here

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

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