Greater Brisbane Area

Download the information guide Indigenous Language Resources – Greater Brisbane Area  (PDF 397.3 KB)

This Information Guide has been developed to support individuals and communities in their research into the Aboriginal languages of the Greater Brisbane area. Its aim is to identify items in the State Library collections which can be utilised to explore the Aboriginal people, cultures and languages of Brisbane and surrounding areas.

While historically there has been much written about the languages and dialects of the Greater Brisbane area, there still exists uncertainty around their structure and relationship. Furthermore, there is even greater ambiguity surrounding the boundaries and extent these languages and dialects were originally spoken. Generally speaking, the languages of Brisbane are related with many shared/borrowed words; and traditionally individuals spoke several languages including their parents’ languages and neighbouring languages. The languages to the north of Brisbane have a relationship to Kabi Kabi, while the Moreton Bay and Brisbane languages were linked; to the south Yugambeh shared more in common with Bundjalung.

While there may be an absence of audio/visual recordings from these languages, there exists some historical language material collected by a range of individuals in the 19th century as well as current community-based language activities. Ideally, language revival entails collating existing materials with local community knowledge.

This listing complements community language information sessions held in South-East Queensland Centres during 2011-17.

Languages or dialects across the region referred to in historical and/or linguistic texts include:

Brisbane CBD

  • Turubul – also written as Turrabul, Churrabool, etc. [AIATSIS Language Code E86]
  • Yugara – also written as Jagara, Yuggera, etc. [AIATSIS Language Code E23]

Brisbane South

  • Coorparoo (believed to be a clan group)
  • Chepara (believed to be a clan group)
  • Yerongpan - also written as Yerongban or Yeronghan [See AIATSIS Language Code E23]

Bayside – South

  • Goenpul - also written as Goinbal [see AIATSIS Language Code E19]
  • Gnaloongpin (believed to be a clan group)

Logan River – Beenleigh

  • Yugambeh and related dialects, including Gugingin, Bullongin, Kombumerri, Mingunburri, Birinburra [AIATSIS Language Code E17]

Gold Coast

  • Kombumerri - also written as Kombumeri [See AIATSIS Language Code E17]
  • Ngarahngwal - also written as Ngarahgwal  or Ngaraangbal  [AIATSIS Language Code E79]


  • Manaldjahli - also written as Mununjali [AIATSIS Language Code E76]

Brisbane West

  • Garumngar – also written as Garumnga [AIATSIS Language Code E88]

Ipswich & West Moreton

  • Jagara – also written as Yugara or Yagara [AIATSIS Language Code E23]
  • Yugarabul – also written as Yuggarabul or Ugarapul [AIATSIS Language Code E66]
  • Yugara – also written as Yuggera or Jagara [AIATSIS Language Code E23]

Brisbane North

  • Turubul – also written as Turrbal, Turrubul, etc. [AIATSIS Language Code E86]
  • Ningy Ningy – also written as Ninghi Ninghi [See AIATSIS Language Code E86]
  • Duungidjawu – also written as Dungidjau [AIATSIS Language Code D20]

Bayside – North

  • Undanbi – also written as Undumbi [AIATSIS Language Code E94]

Moreton Bay

  • Jandai – also written as Jandewal or Djendewal [AIATSIS Language Code E19]
  • Nunukul – also written as Noonuccal [See AIATSIS Language Code E21]
  • Moondjan – also written as Moonjan [AIATSIS Language Code E21]
  • Ngugi – also written as Gnoogee [See AIATSIS Language Code E26]
  • Guwar – also written as Goowar or Guar [AIATSIS Language Code E26]

Sunshine Coast

  • Kabi Kabi – also written as Gubbi Gubbi [AIATSIS Language Code E29]
  • Joondaburri – also written as Djindubari [See AIATSIS Language Code E94]

Note: the names of languages and dialects in the Brisbane area are unclear as some names may refer to clan, horde or family groups. Ford and Blake (1998, p.11) identify the following alternative spellings for Brisbane Aboriginal groups:

Yugerra, Yagara, Yaggara, Yugg-ari, Yackarabul, Turubul, Turrabal, Turrubul, Turrabal, Terabul, Torbul, Turibul, Toorbal, Yerongban, Yeronghan, Ugarapul, Yerongpan, Biriin, Ninghi, Ningy Ningy, Duke of York Clan, Jaarabal, Jergarbal.

In light of this, the AIATSIS Language Code is also listed; this refers to the classification and descriptors developed by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). These codes have been incorporated into subject descriptions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language items in collecting institutions, including the State Library of Queensland. Further details at AIATSIS Pathways Thesauri::

Language Landscape

The above names give an insight into the cultural diversity of the Brisbane area – there was a fair degree of interaction among groups for ceremonies, trade and other social gatherings. Most languages are based on drainage systems and the associated catchment area. In the Greater Brisbane area, this included Brisbane River; Logan River; Albert River; Bremer River; Pine River; Warrill Creek; Moggill Creek; Teviot Brook and Tingalpa Creek.

This traditional landscape changed dramatically with the settlement of Moreton Bay in the early 1800’s. Steele (1983) identified a number of clans in the area; the main ones including Duke of York; North Pine; Coorparoo; Chepara and Yerongpan.

Aboriginal camps existed along the Brisbane River and tributaries – these included Breakfast Creek, Victoria Park, Oxley Creek, Alderley, Nudgee, Enoggera, Mt Coot-tha, Norman Creek, Doboy Creek, Sandgate and Musgrave Park. As well as traditional camp sites, these evolved into fringe camps for a number of groups coming into the Moreton Bay settlement. Groups from other language areas of South-East Queensland, e.g. Bribie Island, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich, West Moreton, Logan and Moreton Bay travelled to Brisbane to view the daily events of Brisbane. In light of this migration, hybrid or blended languages became the lingua franca in the Brisbane area from the 1830’s.

Around this period, the first lists of words for the Brisbane languages were written down. It should be remembered that these early lists were recorded by non-linguists based on how they have heard these words and their associated sounds. For example, the first words documented from the Brisbane area was by Thomas Pamphlett, a shipwrecked convict, who in 1823 spent several months with local Aboriginals. Explorers such as Leichhardt and Mitchell were the next to document languages from the Moreton Bay settlement. These historical wordlists are rich in heritage, however the language or dialect is not identified and the words are written down phonetically as heard by untrained ears.

Zion Hill, near present day Nundah was established as a Lutheran Mission from 1838-1845; Rev Eipper recorded a wordlist from Aboriginals present at the Mission. In 1841, Eipper compiled a report on the German Mission and identifies the following tribes: ‘Amity Point, Malurbine and Moppe’s tribes on the right bank of the river and the Duke of York’s, Pine River, Ninge Ninge, Umpie Boang and Yun Monday tribes’ (Eipper, pp. 4-5). This document is one of the first accounts of the different tribes who lived in the Greater Brisbane Area.

By the 1850’s an exclusion zone had been put in place around the Brisbane City area denoted by the ring of ‘Boundary Roads’ and the introduction of a night-time curfew which pushed Aboriginal people away from the city centre.

In 1866 Bethesda Mission was established at Beenleigh for local Yugambeh groups; this was followed in 1877 with Durundur established for groups on the north of Brisbane. Deebing Creek Mission at Ipswich was set up by local businessmen and operational by 1892. Aboriginal people from the Brisbane area were moved to these missions and exacerbated the loss of language and culture.

In 1897, the advent of the Protection of Aborigines Act in 1897 saw the removal of many Aboriginal people to Barambah as well as the establishment of an Aboriginal Girls Home in South Brisbane. All of these factors impacted on the transmission of language knowledge and there are few records of Brisbane languages after this time. Meston in his role as Chief Protector has documented languages from across Queensland, including the South-East; wordlists from Brisbane and Moreton Bay can be found in his notebooks and other materials held in the State Library collections.

This historical material often provides the basis for language revival and within the South-East Queensland area there are a number of Aboriginal organisations, language workers and community members actively involved in activities that support the documentation and preservation of traditional languages and dialects. The process of language revival entails collating historical and linguistic evidence and blending it with traditional community knowledge. This guide may be a good starting point for your community language.


The following list of print resources and other materials are useful starting points for exploring the Aboriginal languages of the Greater Brisbane Area. These items are held at the State Library of Queensland, while further reference materials may be found in local/regional public libraries. Out-of-print materials may not be readily available and held in collecting institutions such as the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (Canberra), University of Queensland or State Library of New South Wales.

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

There are reference materials for most Queensland languages, including Greater Brisbane Area, located at The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Canberra – this material may include sound recordings, as well as vocabulary and word lists. AIATSIS has a community access policy and supports communities obtaining copies of materials. AIATSIS has an on-line catalogue:

AIATSIS Language Select Bibliographies

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra has produced online/PDF versions of Language and People Bibliographies for a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The bibliographies provide a list of print materials held by AIATSIS relating to specific languages, including those in South-East Queensland.

AIATSIS is currently redeveloping their website [June 2015] and some bibliographies may not be available at the moment – further details:

The languages have been grouped under their respective names, e.g.:

  • Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi
  • Jagara / Yuggera
  • Nunukul / Noonuccal
  • Yugambeh / Yugumbir


AIATSIS also maintains AUSTLANG the Indigenous Languages Database which collates information and research pertaining to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages Further details: AUSTLANG Indigenous Languages Database:

State Library of New South Wales (SLNSW)

State Library of New South Wales through their Rediscovering Indigenous languages Project has identified historical materials that contain language material from Colonial Queensland, particularly Moreton Bay. The project will digitise language content for community access. Further details:

University of Queensland

The University of Queensland also has a significant collection of language materials within their collections, particularly within the Fryer Library. Further Details:

Other materials relating to Aboriginal languages of the Greater Brisbane area may be held in local or regional collections, as well as in local Aboriginal community organisations.

Language Resources – Brisbane

This is only a selection from the SLQ Collections – for a comprehensive listing of print and electronic materials (books, journals, manuscripts, videos, images, sound recordings and items from digital collections, etc.) use the OneSearch facility.

Linguistic/Language Resources in SLQ Collections

Aborigines of southeast Queensland. Typescript. VF 994.320049915 abo
Allan, J. and Lane, J. (2001) The language of the Wangerriburra and neighbouring groups in the Yugambeh region. P 499.15 all
Bell, E. (1946) Legends of the Coochin Valley. J 398.232943 bel
Bell, F. M. F M Bell Memoirs. OM83-24
Bell, J. (1994) Dictionary of the Gubbi-Gubbi and Butchulla languages, compiled with the assistance of Amanda Seed. G 499.15321 1994
Capell, A. (1963) Linguistic Survey of Australia. Q 499.15 cap
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
Dixon, R. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1981) Handbook of Australian Languages. G 499.15 1979
Finch, C. W. (1842) Charles Wray Finch Papers 1842-1860 OM78-92/4
Hardcastle, T.W. (1930) ‘A Vocabulary of the language of the Aborigines of the Boonah District’. VF 499.15 har
Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. J 499.15 HOL
Horton, D. (1994) Aboriginal Australia. (Map)  M 804 1999 04700 E
Howitt, A.W. (reprint) (1996) The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. J 306.089 how [Online access through State Library Membership]
Kite, S. and Wurm, S. (2004) The Duungidjawu language of southeast Queensland: grammar, texts and vocabulary: Pacific Linguistics 553. J 499.15 KIT
Mathew, J. (1910) Two representative tribes of Queensland: with an inquiry concerning the origin of the Australian race. J 306.0899915 MAT
Mathew, J. (1975) ‘On the Kabi dialect of Queensland’. Photocopied from the Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, v. 9, 1880, pp. 312-317 VF 499.15 mat
Meston, A. (undated) Archibald Meston Papers Undated. OM64-17
Meston, A. (200?) Moreton Bay and Islands. J 994.32 MES
Nekes, H., Wurms, E. and McGregor, W. (2006) Australian Languages. J 499.15 NEK
Pamphlett, T. and Uniacke, J. (19--) Narrative of Thomas Pamphlett, aged thirty-four years, who was with two other men wrecked on the coast of New Holland in April 1923 and lived among the natives for seven months. VF 910.453 pam
Ridley, W. [Papers, 11 May 1824-c. 25 Feb. 1878, including notes on Aboriginal peoples, 1853-1864] [microform] FILM 0705
Ridley, W. (1855) W Ridley Notebook, 1855. OM79-32/17
Ridley, W. (1866) Kamilaroi, Dippil and Turrabul: languages spoken by Australian Aborigines. RBJ 499.15 rid
Sharpe, M. (2005)Grammar and texts of the Yugambeh-Bundjalung dialect chain in Eastern Australia. Lincom: Munich.Q 499.15 sha
Tennant-Kelly, C. and University of Queensland (2011)The Caroline Tennant-Kelly ethnographic collection: fieldwork accounts of Aboriginal culture in the 1930s. University of Queensland: St Lucia. (CD-ROM)HCF 305.89915 CAR
Thieberger, N. and McGregor, W. (Eds) (1994)Macquarie Aboriginal Words: a dictionary of words from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Macquarie University: North Ryde.J 499.15 M'QU
Tindale, N. B. (1974)Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits and Proper Names. Australian National University Press: Canberra.Q 994.0049915 tin
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
Watson, F. J. (1941) F J Watson Papers 1941OM73-20
Welsby, T. (1916)"Recollections of the Natives of Moreton Bay together with some of their names and customs of living." (Typescript)6758 Box 11392.

General References and Further Reading in SLQ Collections

These texts have general information about Aboriginal people, histories and cultures in the Greater Brisbane Area.

Aird, M. (1996) I know a few words: Talking about Aboriginal Languages. Keeaira Publications: Southport. G 499.15 1996
Adams, R. (2000) Noosa and Gubbi Gubbi: the land, the people, the conflict. Ultreya Publications: Tewantin. G 305.89915 2000
Australia (1992) Language and culture: a matter of survival. Report of the Inquiry into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language Maintenance. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs. Australian Government Printing Service: Canberra. G 499.15 1992
Ballard, K. (2007) Brisbane the Beginning. Q 994.31 BAL
Blake, T. (2001) A dumping ground: the history of the Cherbourg Aboriginal Reserve. University of Queensland Press: St Lucia. G 305.89915 2001
Bond, A. (2012) Songlines into Brisbane. HDVD 994.31 BON
Brisbane History Group (1990) Brisbane: local, oral and placename history. Brisbane History Group: Brisbane. G 994.31 1990
Caboolture Shire (1979) From Spear and Musket 1879-1979, Caboolture Centenary: Stories of the area once controlled by the Caboolture Divisional Board, Shires of Pine Rivers, Caboolture, Kilcoy, Landsborough, Maroochy and City of Redcliffe, Caboolture Shire. Caboolture Shire: Caboolture. Q 994.32 FRO
Cairns, S. (1967) Uncle Willie MacKenzie's Legends of the Gourndirs, Jacaranda Press: Brisbane. CLG 398.20994 1967
Colliver, F. S. (1986) Aboriginals in the Brisbane Area. PAM 994.30049915 1986
Craig, W. W. (2007) Moreton Bay settlement, or, Queensland before separation, 1770-1859. QCFS 994.3 2007
Eipper, C. & Lang, J. (1841) Statement of the origin, condition and prospects of the German mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, conducted under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church in New South Wales. RBJ 266.529431 EPPEipper, C. (2007) German Mission to the Aborigines at Moreton Bay, 1841. Archive CD Books. QCFS 266.02343094 2007
Fairhall, N. (1989) Ningi Ningi our first inhabitants. P 994.31 fai
Fisher, R. (Ed.) (1992) "Brisbane: The Aboriginal presence 1824-1860." In Brisbane History Group. No. 11. Brisbane History Group Inc.: Kelvin Grove. J 994.31 BRI
Ford, R. & Blake, T. (1998) Indigenous peoples of southeast Queensland: an annotated guide to ethno-historical sources. FAIRA: Woolloongabba. G 016.30589915 1998
Fraser, J. (1828) Residence on the Banks of the Brisbane and Logan Rivers Diary 1828. OM87-25
Jackson, L.C. (1992) A Preliminary Sourcebook on the Ugarapul People of the Fassifern, South-Eastern Queensland, AIATSIS, Canberra. Q 016.99432 JAC
Jones, S. (1990) A Submerged History: Baroon Aborigines and White Invasion, Jones: Maleny. P 994.0049915 jon
Kerkove, R. (1985) West End to Woolloongabba: the early and aboriginal history of a district. VF 994.31 ker
Kerkhove, R. (2015) Aboriginal camp sites of Greater Brisbane: an historical guide'. Boolarong Press: Brisbane. 994.310049915 2015
McConvell, P. and Thieberger, N. (Department of the Environment and Heritage) (2001) Australia State of the Environment Technical Paper Series (Natural and Cultural Heritage) Series 2: G 499.15 1997 [Also available online:]
McGregor, K. (1998) Quandamooka People: tales of old Moreton Bay. P 994.31 mc'g
Milne, R. (1993) Dahs and bahs: Aboriginal Placenames of Southern Queensland. Q 910.014 MIL
Nelson, C. (1993) The valley of the Jagera. C Nelson: Gatton. P 994.32 nel
Pamphlett, T. (1825) Narrative of Thomas Pamphlet : aged thirty four years, who was with two other men wrecked on the coast of New Holland in April, 1823, and lived among the natives for seven months. RBJ 910.453 PAM
Pearn, J. (1993) In the beginning: observations on pre-European life on Coochiemudlo Island, Moreton Bay, Queensland. P 994.3101 pea
Petrie, C. (1992) Tom Petrie's reminiscences of early Queensland. University of Queensland Press: St Lucia. J 994.32 PET
Pugsley, H. (1975) Looking back along the Fassifern Valley. H Pugsley: Stanthorpe. J 994.32 PUG
Steele, J. G. (1984) Aboriginal pathways in southeast Queensland and the Richmond River. University of Queensland Press: St Lucia. Q 994.3102 ste
Thorpe, B. (2004) Remembering the forgotten: a history of the Deebing Creek Aboriginal mission in Queensland 1887-1915. Seaview Press: Henley Beach. G 305.89915 2004
Watkins, G. (1891) Notes on the aboriginals of Stradbroke and Moreton islands. P 306.089 wat
Whalley, P. (1987) An introduction to the Aboriginal social history of Moreton Bay South East Queensland from 1799 to 1830. Thesis. Q 305.89915 WHA
Winterbotham, L. (1957) 'The Gaiarbau Story: Some native customs and beliefs of the Jinibara tribe as well as those of some of their neighbours in south-east Queensland', Queensland Ethnohistory Transcripts. Archaeology Branch, Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement: Brisbane. Q 994.30049915 SOM

Further details

For further information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages at the State Library of Queensland, please contact:

kuril dhagun, State Library of Queensland
Stanley Place, South Brisbane Qld, 4101
PO Box 3488, South Brisbane Qld, 4101
t: (07) 3842 9836 f: (07) 3842 9893

SLQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages
SLQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Blog

Library membership

Become an SLQ member now to access our services, collections and facilities.

Library Shop online

Discover an eclectic range of books, gifts, reproduction prints and more at the Library Shop.

SLQ Indigenous Languages Blog: