Indigenous languages live!

As a Brisbane based Indigenous Resource Officer I'm constantly asked, "can you speak the language?" To which my reply is "Yes, of course... Wooloowin, Nundah, Yeronga, Enogerra..."

Each one of these suburbs have Aboriginal names.  Wooloowin meaning Species of Pigeon, Nundah meaning water-holes or lagoons, Yeronga meaning gravelly place and Enoggera place of sticky soil.  Most of these place names are mentioned in Watson, F.J. (1946) Vocabularies of four representative tribes of South Eastern Queensland.

To mark the recent John Oxley Library Open Day celebration I created a map providing translations for locations from Watson's book.  Not all the names are mentioned on this map and most have only a quick summary of the meanings but from it we can see that Aboriginal language lives and spoken by a lot of people...including those who just don't know it.

Aboriginal Name meanings for Brisbane Area

For thousands of years our Australian landscape was covered with networks of Indigenous placenames that described and evoked features of the environment. European colonisers often superimposed their own names, usually derived from northern hemisphere locations, but many aboriginal placenames still remain and are very familiar to us.

Tania Schafer - John Oxley Library


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Lovely story Tania

Not sure how accurate the place name descriptions are on the map, but some are clearly incorrect. The first one I noted was Wooloowin - the indigenous word for 'fish'. Although the Indigenous people had various words for different fish species, the collective word was Wooloowin.
The other obvious one in Woolloongabba (Indigenous word wooloon-capemba) meaning place of swirling water or whirlpool. This could have referred to the swamp on which the Brisbane Cricket Ground was built, or it could refer to the currents in the Brisbane River where it meets Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
John McDonnell
Founder - Lost Brisbane Facebook Page.

Thank you Arthur John Mcdonnell for you comments. I was never sure of the accuracy of J.F. Watson's information, as he never wrote down his sources.
Unfortunately I can not change his description, however I can create an updated map, so please keep the comments coming and if possible source where your information is from for other researchers.