Indigenous Languages Resources for Toowoomba and Darling Downs

Download Language resources for Toowoomba and Darling Downs [243 KB]

This Information Guide has been developed to support individuals and communities in their research into the Aboriginal languages of Toowoomba and the Darling Downs. It complements a community language workshop held at Toowoomba in November 2010.

The main Aboriginal language groups in the Toowoomba region are Barunggam, Jarowair, Giabal and Kienjan tribes. Giabal and Jarowair are recognised as the two main groups of the Toowoomba area: Giabal extends south/south-west from the City and takes in Cecil Plains, Pittsworth and Allora while Jarowair extends north/north-west and takes in Oakey. From the west, Barrungam meets Jarowair near Dalby while Bigambul and Kambuwal borders Giabal near Millmerran and Pratten; Kienjan and Githabul extend from the southern regions while Jagera and Garumngar are the neighbouring languages on the eastern boundaries.

This traditional landscape changed dramatically with the settlement of Drayton in the 1840’s and the pastoral expansion west. Those Aboriginals that survived the frontier conflict of this time were pushed to the fringe of society in camps and later moved to missions such as Deebing Creek, Durundur and later Barambah. There is evidence that local Aboriginals were working on the properties to the west of Toowoomba in this contact period. Ceremonies such as the Bonye Bonye festival remained active until the late 1800’s – groups from South-East and South-West Queensland as well as Northern New South Wales gathered at Gummingurru, near Gowrie (west of Toowoomba) prior to attending the festival. Gummingurru site is being restored and remains an important ceremonial place for not only the traditional groups but neighbouring groups.

Toowoomba today has an active Aboriginal population comprising descendants of local groups as well as a majority drawn from the Darling Downs and South West Queensland – Bidjara (Charleville), Gunggari (Mitchell), Mandandanji (Roma/Surat) and Guwamu, Kulili, Kunya (Cunnamulla) are significant groups along with Gamilaroi people drawn from communities including Moree, Boggabilla/Toomelah, and Goondiwindi. Many of these people have moved to Toowoomba for economic reasons as rural towns decline; however they still maintain familial and cultural links back to country.


There are additional references for Toowoomba, Darling Downs and South West Queensland located at The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), Canberra – this material includes sound recordings, as well as vocabulary and word lists.  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 PDF versions of Select Bibliographies for a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The Select Bibliographies provide a list of materials held by AIATSIS relating to specific languages, including those from the Darling Downs and South West Queensland, e.g. Bigambul, Githabul, Kooma and Gungarri. The Toowoomba area languages have been grouped under Barunggam.

A full list of these can be found at the following weblink:

Language Resources – Toowoomba & Darling Downs

The following list of print resources and materials are useful starting points for language activities in schools, communities or public libraries – these items are held at the State Library of Queensland, while additional 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).

Linguistic Materials in SLQ Collections

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:

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.
Breen, J.G. (1990) Salvage Studies of Western Queensland Aboriginal Languages. Australia Pacific Linguistics: Canberra. J 499.15 bre
Condamine Alliance (2013) Languages of the Condamine: Schools Activity Guide. Condamine Alliance: Toowoomba. P 499.9915 LAN [Available online:]
Dixon, R. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1981) Handbook of Australian Languages. Australian National University Press; Canberra. G 499.15 1979
Geytenbeek, B. and H. (1971) Gidabal Grammar and Dictionary. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra. Australian Aboriginal Studies No. 43. SER 499.15
Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern Queensland. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL
Holmer, N. (1988) Notes on Some Queensland Languages. Australian National University: Canberra. J 499.15 HOL
Howitt, A.W. (reprint) (1996) The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. Australian Studies Press: Canberra. [Online access through SLQ]
Pittman, R. and Kerr, H. (Eds) (1964) Papers on the Languages of the Australian Aborigines. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: Canberra. Q 499.15 pap
Ridley, W. (1866) Kamilaroi, Dippil and Turrabul: languages spoken by Australian Aborigines. Government Printer: Sydney. RBJ 499.15 rid
Ridley, W. (1875) 2nd edn, Kamilaroi and other Australian Languages. Government Printers: Sydney. Q 499.15 rid
Sharpe, M. (1995) 2nd edn Dictionary of Western Bundjalung, including Gidhabal and Tabulam Bundjalung. University of New England: Armidale. Q 499.15 sha
Sharpe, M. (2005) Grammar and texts of the Yugambeh-Bundjalung dialect chain in Eastern Australia. Lincom: Munich. Q 499.15 sha
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
Wafer, J. and Lissarrague, A. (2008) A handbook of Aboriginal languages of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and culture Cooperative: Nambucca Heads, NSW. J 499.15 WAF

General Language Materials in SLQ Collections

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. G 499.15 1992
Condamine-Balonne WAMP Indigenous Working Party (1999) Condamine-Balonne Indigenous Report. Q 333.91 con
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
Department of Education, Employment and Training (DEET) (1995) Langwij comes to School. G 372.60899915 1994
Dixon, R. and Ramson, W. (1992) Australian Aboriginal words in English. J 499.15 AUS
Feehely, D. (1997) The fire people 1830s-1930s: a history of the Burra, the Aboriginal people of the Eastern Darling Downs. Q 305.89915 fee
French, M. (1989) Conflict on the Condamine:  Aborigines and the European invasion. Darling Downs Institute Press: Toowoomba. G 994.33 1989
Harman, D. & Henderson, J. (Eds) (1994) Aboriginal Languages in Education. G 499.1507 1994
Jackson, G. K. (1940) ‘Darling Downs Aborigines’ in Toowoomba Tourist Bureau Darling Downs Centenary Souvenir 1840-1940. Q 994.33 DAR
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 [Available online:]
Milne, R. (1993) Dahs and bahs: Aboriginal Placenames of Southern Queensland. Q 910.014 MIL
Potter, C. (2002) Conversations on the Condamine: an oral history from the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin. G 994.33 2002
Riethmuller, N. (2006) The Darling Downs Aborigines 1787-2004: genocide and survival. P 994.33 RIE

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

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