The People and their Traditional Country
Banyjima country is traditionally located in the area around the town of Wittenoom in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. It extends west towards the town of Tom Price, and east towards the town of Newman.
In 2004 there were estimated to be less than 50 speakers of the Banyjima language. Many more people have a partial or passive understanding of the language. Many more people identify as being from Banyjima heritage but speak other languages. Many Banyjima people live in the towns of Port Hedland, Tom Price, Roebourne and surrounding communities. Many people have intermarried with other language groups.
The award-winning documentary Exile and the Kingdom tells of the resilience of the Banyjima, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi and Kurrama people of Roebourne from early colonial times to the present.
Language Resources and Recordings
Wangka Maya has worked with community members to produce learners' resources, including the Banyjima Topical Wordlist, which includes audio spoken by the late Peter Stevens. The book Short Stories in Banyjima features stories told by Herbert Parker, Percy Tucker and Jack Butler, now all deceased. It was produced from 1986 recordings by Dench, who also created a detailed sketch grammar in 1991. The first recordings of Banyjima were made by O'Grady in 1961. Dench (1980) and Street (1972) have also recorded the language.
Banyjima is classified as being a Pama-Nyungan language of the south-west (Nyungic) group. It’s family is the Ngayarta group of languages which includes Ngarla, Nyamal, Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Kariyarra and several other languages.
Written Example of the Language
(from Short Stories in Banyjima)
Ngatha bilanjanjayiku yanarda, jina gambajara garrbungga. Warri banha gurla yanardagu ngaju. Ngatha yanarda muthumuthularru, mirdamu jina gambarda. Nyinda marlba mankarrba banu, yanangu garrbungga mirda jina gambanggu. Garrbu banu ngali yanarda warrugardarru muthumuthula. Ngali, gumbali, yanarda warrugardarru? Ngatha bilyanyurru banu yanarda warrugardala. Ngali yanarda yarlibalamu ganabarrayijangula.
I’m frightened to go lest my foot burns on the hot ground. This ground is too hot for me to go. I’ll go in the cool; won’t burn my foot then. You must be a tough man, going in the heat without burning your foot. It’s very hot, we’ll go tonight when it’s cool. Shall we go tonight brother-in-law? I get very frightened of the dark. Okay, we’ll go early when it’s just getting light.
Banyjima Birds and Animals