Shark Bay's History

Aboriginal languages

About 250 different Aboriginal languages were spoken when Europeans first settled in Australia, including three in the Shark Bay region: Malgana, Nhanda and Yingkarta. Unfortunately European settlement resulted in many Aboriginal languages not being used regularly.

  • Malgana is the traditional language of the people of central Shark Bay. Although the last known fluent speakers of Malgana died in the 1990s the language is being revived and is used in community projects, government information, interpretive materials and local ecotourism ventures. Vocabulary is also taught in the local school. This revival has been achieved with the assistance of the Yamaji Language Centre in Geraldton.
  • Nhanda is the traditional language of Aboriginal people occupying the coastal strip from southern Shark Bay down to Kalbarri. Only a handful of people now speak the language.
  • Yingkarta is the traditional language of Aboriginal people whose country stretches along the coast between the Gascoyne and Wooramel Rivers, and some way inland. Today the few people who speak Yingkarta live in Carnarvon.

Language is both a mirror and a vehicle for culture and provides insight into Malgana cultural life. Following is a list of Malgana words and their English translations:

People

Yamaji – Aboriginal person

Yadgalah, yajala – friend

Nyarlu – woman

Gardu – man

Wurrinyu – girl, young woman

Gugu, yamba – boy

Wiyabandi – young man

Bilyunu –baby

Guyu - father

Nanga - mother

Gurda - brother

Yiba - sister

Gantharri – grandchile, grandparent

Warlu – lover, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse

 

Places

Gutharraguda – two waters / two bays - Shark Bay

Wirruwana – Dirk Hartog Island

Wulyibidi – Peron Peninsula

Thaamarli – Tamala Station

Wilyamaya – tip of Heirisson Prong

 

Marine

Wirriya – sea, salt water

Buthurru – sand

Thalganjangu – lagoon

Mardirra – pink snapper

Mulgarda – mullet

Mulhagarda – whiting

Irrabuga – bottlenose dolphin

Thaaka – shark

Buyungurra – turtle

Wuthuga – dugong

Warda - pearl

Jurruna - pelican

Wanamalu - cormorant

Wabagu – sea eagle

Winthu - wind

 

Terrestrial

Baba – rain, water

Yalgari – tree

Ngaya – wattle

Yudu -  bushl, scrub

Jalyanu - grass

Birlirung – everlasting daisy

Walgu – sandalwood fruit and tree

Bangga, barnka – goanna

Thayadi, thayirri – snake

Jabi – small dragon lizard

Migarda – thorny devil

Marlu – small kangaroo species

Yawarda – larger kangaroo species

Biyagu – galah

Garlaya, yalibidi – emu

 

Adapted from: Malgana Wangganyina (Talking Malgana): an Illustrated Wordlist of the Malgana Language of Western Australia. Mackman, Doreen (ed). Geraldton: Yamaji Language Centre 2003. Copies can be purchased from:

The Yamaji Language Centre
22 Sanford Street (PO Box 433)
Geraldton WA 6531
 
Australia
Tel: 61 + 8 9964 3550
 
Fax: 61 + 8 9964 4690
 
Email:
 yamaji@wn.com.au , bundara@wn.com.au