The People and their Traditional Country
Karajarri country is located in the area around Bidyadanga Community, which used to be called La Grange Mission, south-east of the town of Broome along the coastal strip between the ocean and the Great Sandy Desert. The Karajarri people welcomed a number of other language groups onto their land during the mid 1900s as Aboriginal people were moved from the desert areas. Today Mangala, Yulparija, Nyangumarta and Juwaliny people live with the Karajarri on their traditional lands, as described in Father Kevin McKelson's book Nganarna Nyangumarta Karajarrimili Ngurranga: We Nyangumarta in the Country of the Karajarri.
In 2004 there were estimated to be less than twenty speakers of the Karajarri language. A number of people are partial speakers, have a passive knowledge of Karajarri and many more identify as being from Karajarri heritage. Karajarri is classified as a highly endangered language.
Wittadong Mulardy shares her knowledge in Karajarri on the Bidyadanga Bush Medicine DVD
Language Resources and Recordings
The first documentation of the language appears to be by Worms in 1949. Father McKelson conducted extensive recordings and documentation of the language from the late 1950s to mid 1990s. McKelson produced a wordlist which was worked on and extended by Wangka Maya Language Centre. The Karajarri Dictionary was published in 2005, which can be seen on-line as an e-Book Dictionary. In the Bidyandanga Bush Medicine DVD community members share their medicinal knowledge in the five languages spoken at Bidyandanga, including Karajarri.
Karajarri 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 Marrngu subgroup and is related to the languages of Nyangumarta and Mangala.
Linguist Father McKelson identified three variations of Karajarri. They are Nangu, Najanaja and Nawurtu.
Past spellings of the Karajarri language include Garadjara, Garadjari, Garadjeri, Gard, Guradjara, Karadhari, Karadjari, Karadjeri, Karrajarra, Kularupulu, Laradjeri and other names the language may have been called include Minala, Nadja, Nadjanadja, Nangu, Naudu, Naurdu, Nawudu, Nawurungainj, Ngawadu, Karadjer.
The Karajarri coast near Bidyadanga Community. (Picture by Andrew Spratt)
Written examples of the Karajarri Language
Nganyarna jamparr pi.
I eat ripe bush oranges.
Majarra yuwanaraku kuwi. Jamunu pala.
Don’t give him meat. He can’t eat it.
Jalin pungka kankarrangu ngapakura.
Jalkanajangka put pinya yalki.
The goanna gets up from its winter sleep.
Yawartalu mayi jalngu nganya kaninyjartu mayangka.
The horse is eating the grass in the house.