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The People and their Traditional Country

The last Jiwarli speaker, Jack Butler, passed away in 1986. There are many people who are from Jiwarli heritage who speak a few words or phrases of the language. People of Jiwarli heritage are located in the area between the towns of Carnarvon and Onslow, through to Geraldton in the south and Port Hedland in the north. Many people of Jiwarli heritage have intermarried with other language groups.


Jiwarli traditional country comprised the area of the southern Pilbara region of Western Australia at the top end of the Yannarie River down to Lyons River where it divides, and up to the Henry River. It includes Mount Florry and Mount Hamlet. The area lies in the south west corner of the Pilbara region.


Language Resources and Recordings

Austin conducted research with the last Jiwali speaker between 1978 and 1985. This resulted in the production of a dictionary. O’Grady and Dench also conducted further work on the language. Wangka Maya has published the Jiwarli Dictionary 2007 and the Jiwarli Interactive Dictionary 2007. The dictionary can be seen on-line as a Dictionary e-Book.


Language Information

Jiwarli is part of the Pama-Nyungan language family; a large group of indigenous languages spread over much of the Australian continent. It belongs to the Mantharta subgroup of languages along with Warriyangka, Thiin and Tharrkari. Jiwarli also shows some similarities with the Thalanyji language of the Ashburton River area.


Past spellings of the Jiwarli language include Djiwali, Jivali, Tivali and Tjiwali.


Written examples of the Jiwarli Language


Wuru ngunha tharrparninyja ngartingka kajalpula ngarringka ngurntiniyala.

He inserted the stick into the emu lying in the ashes.


Jinathu ngunha wuluwarninyja ngunhapa.

He broke his legs.


Ngurnupanthi winthikutharra ngunhirapa wirripukalu pinyanyja.

The mob speared those two murderers.


Kurukurura ngunha yananyja thanartila ngula.

The peregrine falcon went to the sea.


Jintijintiyi warri yarraukarrinyja ngunhapurrathu ngunha manthartanyjarri.

The people didn’t like the willy wagtail (a bird) at that time.