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Ngarluma country near Roebourne. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

The People and their Traditional Country

Ngarluma country is traditionally located around the Roebourne area, and to the east and south-east of Roebourne. Speakers use to live around Millstream and west to the Maitland River area before European settlement.


Many Ngarluma people live in Roebourne today, but people are spread through other towns and communities in the Pilbara. Ngarluma people still hold very strong and close associations to traditional country.


The award-winning DVD Exile and the Kingdom documents the history and culture of the Ngarluma, Yindjibarndi, Kurrama and Banyjima people of Roebourne.


It's estimated that there are less than 20 full Ngarluma speakers. Many others are part speakers or have a passive knowledge of Ngarluma. Other people identify as being of Ngarluma heritage who speak English or other languages.


The Ngarluma people have a four group skin system. The groups are Banaga, Balyirri, Burungu and Garimarra.


Harding River. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)

Language Resources and Recordings

Wangka Maya has published the Ngarluma Dictionary 2008. The 2004 edition of the dictionary can be viewed on-line as an e-Book Dictionary. Many Ngarluma community members have contributed to the development of language resources including Maxie Sambo, Violet Hicks, Pansy Hicks, Patricia Edgar, Colin Churnside, Keith Churnside, Kerry Churnside, Jim Fredricks, Frank Smith, Jean Churnside, Robyn Churnside, Tyson Mowarin and Andrew Dowding. Linguist Alison Kohn wrote a Ngarluma Morphology in 2001 but a full grammar has yet to be completed. The earliest Ngarluma texts date from Ken Hale in 1960 and Geoffrey O’Grady in 1961. In the 1960s and 70s a number of other linguists also made recordings of the language.


Language Details

Ngarluma is of the ‘Ngayarta’ language family and is related to other languages such as Ngarla, Nyamal, Banyjima, Yinjibarndi and Martuthunira. The Ngayarta languages are part of the south-west branch of the Pama-Nyungan languages of Australia.


The name of the language has sometimes been spelt Ngalooma, Gnalluma, Gnalooma, or Ngaluma.


Written Example of the Language


Nhurdu yungu thalu. Gutharra ngarrigu barlagarni.

This is the rain thalu, two rocks laying parallel.


Nhagaru marnda nhurdu gunjirri manda. Yungu thalu gandungarra wiliwiliwilalba.

Look at this rock, this one. The rock thalu brings storms.


Garlbaru wantharu babana dankirda. Nhaguru yunguyi garlbagu ngulagu yiranayigu.

Carry it to the water tank. You'll see clouds and thunderstorms coming up.