Language of the Week: Week One - Abodja

Welcome to Week One of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

Starting with A, this week's language of the week is Abodja, a language spoken on Western Cape York.

Abodja is more commonly referred to as Wik Paach and was traditionally spoken in the Archer River Delta. Following the establishment of missions, people were moved from their traditional lands to the Aurukun community.

Mission House, Aurukun. (1913) JOL Negative number: 107804.

This language belongs to a genetic language family (shared origins) which includes: Wik-Mungkan Y57; Wik-Iiyanh Y177 and Y172; Wik-Ngatharr Y51; Wik-Ep Y52; Wik-Me'anh Y53; Wik-Keyangan Y173; Mungkanho; Kugu-Uwanh Y176; Kugu Muminh Y43; Kugu-Ugbanh Y175 and Kugu-Mu'inh Y53 (Sutton, 1993:32).

According to Austlang, there are minimal speakers of Abodja language - words may have been absorbed into daily usage by Wik Mungkan language speakers of Aurukun. Abodja and other Cape York language communities are supported by the Pama Language Centre.

Wik.thayanam.thawan "Strong in language".

On the State Library Spoken exhibition webpages, view a digital story featuring Perry Yunkaporta and other Aurukun community members sharing their stories of Wik Munkgan and neighbouring languages.

Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Birria from Western Queensland!


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map


Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition

Spoken Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories exhibition

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Abodja or Wik Paach; however, these are part of texts or items referring to the Wik Mungkan group of languages. Relevant items in the collections include the following:

27458 Aurukun Mission Records 1960-1974

Kilham, C., Adams, J., Bell, J. and Namponan, G. (1986) Dictionary and source book of the Wik-Mungkan language. G 499.15 1986

Korkaktain, V. (2008) Minh Nga'an Wichan = Catching fish told & illustrated by Venita Korkaktain. JUV A823.4 KOR

Oates, W. (1964) Gugu-yalanji and Wik-munkan language studiesQ 499.15 guy 

Pootchemunka, M, Wolmby, M. and Kowearpta, A. (2007) Moon story. Told by Minoota Pootchemunka, Mary Wolmby & Alice Kowearpta ; translated from Wik-Mungkan by Pat Pootchemunka & Koppa Yunkaporta ; illustrated by Jack Bell. JUV 899.153 POO

Sayers, B. and Kilham, C. (1969) Wik-Munkan primer. P 499.15 SAY

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974 G 499.15 1976

Sutton, P. (1995) Wik-Ngathan dictionaryQ 499.15 SUT

Thanakupi, G. F. (2007) Thanakupi’s guide to language and culture: a Thaynakwith DictionaryQ 305.899 THA

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper namesQ 994.0049915 tin

Yunkaporta, S. (2009) Boat-ang mo'pul (in Wik Mungkan) = Two in a boat (in English). Told and illustrated by Steve Yunkaporta. JUV A823.4 YUN


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It is generally accepted that Wik people came into Aurukun voluntarily, not by force, after hearing the stories of the Missionaries in the early 1900's. Many families stayed out bush right up until the 60's but were visited and encouraged to send their children to school and were invited to join the community by the Missionaries. The Missionaries (unusually for their era) supported Culture and Language and worked tirelessly with the community on language projects for over 25 years up until the 1980's. The longest serving Missionary (40 years), Bill MacKenzie was an initiated man of the first stage Winchanam bora and regarded as a tribal Elder even despite his disciplinarian and authoritarian ways at times.