The Anindilyakwa language

The Anindilyakwa language is is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken by the Warnindilyakwa people on Groote Eylandt and Bickerton Island in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of Australia. A 2001 Australian government study identified more than 1000 speakers of the language, although there are believed to be as many as 3000.

Groote Eylandt Language Centre

Groote Eylandt Language Centre evolved from early missionary days and up until 2006 was run by the Church Missionary Society.  It has a long standing association within the community and is a respected organisation both on and off the island.  

It forms an important cultural nucleus for the community and is instrumental in the preservation and maintenance of the local language, Anindilyakwa.  In addition to this, it houses a significant collection of culturally based resources and materials relating to the Warnindilyakwa people.  It also supports a broad range of stakeholders looking to increase their capacity to deliver projects and outcomes within the community, through its translation and affiliated services.

Its lengthy tenure and established association within the community has resulted in the research and documentation of a range of culturally significant works including, but by no means limited to:-

  • the development of an orthography for Anindilyakwa,
  • the production of valuable resources in Anindilyakwa such as 'Eningerribirra-langwa jurra' (Anindilyakwa Children's Dictionary) and 'Alawudawarra akwa Emeba' (Childrens stories and songs CD),
  • the recording and digitising of over twelve hundred Groote Eylandt Clan Songs,
  • collections of traditional stories in Anindilyakwa with English translations, and
  • a database of historical photos dating back to the early nineteen hundreds.
  • Groote Eylandt Language Centre continues to assist the broader community by providing an advisory, translation and facilitation capacity to Government, businesses, community based organisations and individuals.  It is involved on an ongoing basis in a number of projects that foster language and preservation of culture at various levels.  Examples of current projects include:-
  • facilitating workshops with reknown Australian childrens author Alison Lester to develop bi-lingual children’s books for the community,
  • working with Anglicare to develop resources in Anindilyakwa relating to suicide prevention,
  • working with NT Advocacy Services to develop a recently launched promotional DVD, and
  • collaboration with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF) to develop early childhood literacy resources in Anindilyakwa as part of the Early Language and Literacy Program.

The management of Groote Eylandt Language Centre has recently been handed over to the Anindilyakwa Land Council (ALC) as its core objectives of preservation and maintenance of language and culture are more closely aligned with the ALC, than with its former affiliates Groote Eylandt Bickerton Island Enterprises (GEBIE).  This change enables:-

  • a closer alignment with anthropological services,
  • incorporation into the proposed ALC Cultural Centres to be established in the communities of Angurugu, Umbakumba and Milyakburra, and
  • an increased whole of organization approach to language and culture.

Community Needs

Groote Eylandt Language Centre undertook a community survey between February and May 2012 in a bid to better meet the needs of the Warnindilyakwa people with regards to language and related cultural services.  The survey was developed and conducted by Language Officers who spoke to more than 60 people across all communities.

Key findings were that the community wants:-

  • their children to learn to read and write ‘two ways’, in Anindilyakwa and English,
  • culturally relevant and applied learning for their children,
  • better access to all materials housed at Groote Eylandt Linguistics through various media including digital platforms and books,
  • educationally based materials to be developed that reflect local history and culture, and
  • the preservation of language and culture through songlines, sacred sites and traditions.

For more information go to Groote Eylandt Language Centre