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A History of Wangka Maya

Wangka Maya's work began in 1987 when a group of Aboriginal people began making recordings because they feared that Pilbara Aboriginal languages were in danger. This group went on to become incorporated as Wangka Maya in 1989. Some of the earliest members, including Lorraine Injie and Bruce Thomas, continue to be involved in the organisation as Board members today.


Some of Wangka Maya's earliest publications were a series of booklets entitled Aboriginal Languages of the Pilbara, produced in collaboration with the local community and with assistance from linguists Brian Geytenbeek, Nick Thieberger and Alan Dench. Each booklet focussed on a particular language and included information on the traditional distribution of the language, a wordlist and short story with English translation.


Margaret Florey, Nick Thieberger, Lorraine Injie and Rose Murray outside Wangka Maya, November 1990
From the very beginning, members were determined to establish a Pilbara language centre dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Aboriginal languages. They began looking for land and funding for a building. This dream took many years to realise, but eventually in 2008 Wangka Maya moved into the award-winning Language Centre building in South Hedland.


Wangka Maya's work has always been driven by the urgency to record language before the old people pass away. For this reason, Wangka Maya focussed on producing resources in those languages which had few remaining speakers, beginning with the production of wordlists and dictionaries, followed by sketch grammars which describe the use and structure of the language. Over the years, an increasing community need for resources for language learners has seen Wangka Maya respond by producing more books and audio-visual material for children.


The dedication of Wangka Maya's members and staff have seen the organisation grow. Dictionaries and other resources have been produced for many of the 31 languages of the region and continue to be updated and further developed.


In 2012, Wangka Maya will celebrate 25 years of work with the traditional speech communities of the Pilbara.