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state library of queensland
John Oxley Library

Indigenous languages live!

By Tania Schafer, Librarian, State Library of Queensland | 30 June 2011

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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