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Nancy Yanawana and Martine Badal record Mangala for the Bidyadanga Bush Medicine DVD

The People and their Traditional Country

Traditionally Mangala people lived in the north-western section of the Great Sandy Desert region of Western Australia. To the west of Mangala country was Karajarri land around the area where Bidyadanga Community now stands on the coast. To the east was Walmajarri land; the southern border was with Juwaliny and Yulparija, and to the north was the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.

In 2002 there were estimated to be less than 20 Mangala speakers left in the Pilbara. There are many more Mangala people who have a partial or passive understanding of the language. Other people identify as being of Mangala heritage and do not speak the language or speak other languages after marrying into other language groups.


Language Resources and Recordings

Many Mangala speakers, including Peter Clancy, the late Paddy Jadai, Kunikuni, BalBal, Widgee Henry, the late Darby Nangarpany and Peter Francis, worked with Father McKelson, who made extensive studies of the Mangala language over a period of 35 years. He published a dictionary in 1998. Agnew conducted further research guided by McKelson. Wangka Maya produced the Mangala Dictionary 2005 based on McKelson’s work and further work undertaken in the field. This work can be seen on-line as an e-Book Dictionary. An interactive dictionary was released in 2013.


In the DVD Bidyadanga Bush Medicine, elders share their medicinal knowledge in the five languages used in Bidyadanga, including Mangala.


Mangala elder Bruce Thomas performs at NAIDOC Week celebrations. (Picture by Eleonora Deak)

Language Information

Mangala is part of the Pama-Nyungan language family, a large group of languages spread over much of the continent. It belongs to the Marrngu subgroup of languages along with Nyangumarta and Karajarri. Mangala people have very close associations with people from the other two language groups and intermarriage is common.


There are two variations of Mangala. They are the Kakutu/ Kakurtu and Ngulatu/Ngulartu dialects. Further work needs to be done on identifying the source of variation, geographic region and sociolinguistic matters relating to these two variations.


Written Examples of the Mangala Language


Warlu janguru ngana kanga painingka.

He is carrying a firebrand.


Janimanarriniyi ngurrangka ngananikura.

They are cooking in our camp.


Juju nganiyi yinapanarri karliyartuju jirrpilkarra.

They are singing a corroboree song accompanied by rhythmic boomerang strikes.


Ngantupirri nganyan kajin? Muta ngarna katina.

Why did you pinch me? I pinched you for nothing.


Wayin wajiman kartarrkartarr? Nyaltu ngarna wurrjunku karli.

Have you a rough file? I will use it on a boomerang.