Language of the Week: Week Sixteen - Wapabara

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

This week's language of the week is Wapabara, one of the languages of the Capricorn Coast, Central Queensland. The Wapabara language region includes the southern part of Great Keppel Island – the language was also spoken on neighbouring islands and at Yeppoon on the coast. Wapabara is also written as Wapabura, Woppaburra, etc. and is closely related to Dharumbal and neighbouring coastal languages of Kuinmabara, Guwinymal and Rakiwara.

The above image is a map of Rockhampton Aboriginal language groups from Roth and shows the coastal languages adjacent to Great Keppel Island. Roth in his role as Northern Protector of Aborigines compiled a Report to the Commissioner of Police that included The Aborigines of the Rockhampton and surrounding coast districts.

Within this report, Roth documented several languages across the region and collated several comparative wordlists for everyday words - as per the following extract which lists words for 'objects of nature'. The sources for the words are primarily Aboriginal workers on several properties - within the document, Roth only refers to Wyndham and Lucas who had cattle stations on North Keppel and Great Keppel Islands in late 1800's.

Additional historical wordlists were collected by Meston and Curr; while more recent linguistic work in the region has been undertaken by Gavan Breen and Angela Terril. AUSTLANG indicates there are no fluent speakers and the language is considered endangered - it is currently undergoing community revival with support from the Central Queensland Language Centre.


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Yukulta from the Gulf of Carpentaria!


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?



Cover image: South Keppel Island, near Yeppoon. JOL Negative number: 27214.

Map of Rockhampton Aboriginal Languages, Roth. FILM 0714

Comparative Wordlist from The Aborigines of the Rockhampton and surrounding coast districts, Roth. FILM 0714


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Wapabara language and people - mainly in generic materials relating to Central Queensland such as Dharumbal and Biri; including the following items.

Breen, G. (2009) “The Biri dialects and their neighbours”. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, V.133, No.2. SER 506.942

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 continentRBF 572.994 cur

Holmer, N. (1983) Linguistic Survey of South-Eastern QueenslandJ 499.15 HOL

Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) "Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903." FILM 0714

Terrill, A. (1998) BiriJ 499.15 TER

Terrill, A. (2002) Dharumbal: the language of Rockhampton, Australia. Pacific Linguistics 525.  J 499.15 TER

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



Central Queensland Language Centre


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Be the first to write a comment