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Weaver Jack works with Wangka Maya linguist Sally Dixon to record Yulparija

The People and their Traditional Country

Yulparija people originally came from the central Great Sandy Desert area to the south east of Bidyadanga Community on the western Kimberley coast of WA. Water holes and water locations were very significant to the Yulparija. Place names of significance include Kampaji, Kirriwirri, Lurnkurangu, Martakurlu, and Jarnawara. The main waterhole wirnpa is in the Percival Lakes area. Yulparija people moved in to La Grange Mission (as Bidyadanga was previously known) in the 1960s due to drought conditions in the desert and lack of food. Some people went to work on Anna Plains, Wallal Downs and Mandoora Stations. While the Yulparija people were working at the stations, their children were taken to La Grange Mission to attend school. Information about the Yulparija people’s move into Bidyadanga can be found in the book by Father McKelson, Nganarna Nyangumarta Karajarrimili Ngurranga: We Nyangumarta in the country of the Karajarri published by Wangka Maya.


Yulparija language is spoken in and around the Bidyadanga community by approximately 100 people. Yulparija people are traditionally multilingual, and most of the old people learned English as their fifth or sixth language. Many more people have a partial or passive knowledge of the language and many more identify as being from Yulparija heritage and speak English only or another Indigenous language.


Yulparija people lived in the desert moving between waterholes and gathering mayi ‘fruit and vegetables’. There were many different seeds, such as karlayin, from the parta ‘wattle tree’. These were gathered in a wangkulyi ‘coolamon’ and then ground and made into damper. There were also jalirr ‘bush onions’, yilki ‘bush tomatoes’, mungkarliny ‘bush potatoes’, and purra ‘bush apple’.


For kuka ‘meat’ the Yulparija would hunt milpakuji ‘frilled lizard’, marla ‘kangaroo’, rankurrji ‘bush turkey’, karnanganyja ‘emu’ and ngupanu ‘wild dingo’. Foods were available on a seasonal basis, some in the ‘hot season’ yarlipurru, and some in the ‘cold season’ wantapurru.



Sally Liki Nanii records information about the bloodwood tree in Yulparija for the Bidyadanga Bush Medicine DVD

Language Resources and Recordings

Most of the work done on recording Yulparija was done by Father Kevin McKelson during the 1960s to 1980s. Wangka Maya linguist Sally Dixon also worked with Yulparija speakers at Bidyadanga from 2006-08.


In 2009, Wangka Maya published the Yulparija Dictionary. The 2006 edition of the dictionary can be viewed on-line as an e-Book Dictionary. Wangka Maya has also produced a CD Rom Yulparija Interactive Dictionary.


Other resources available from our on-line shop include the DVD Bidyadanga Bush Medicine, in which Bidyadanga residents share their medicinal knowledge in Yulparija, along with the other four languages spoken in the community.


Language Information

Yulparija is of the ‘Wati’ language family and therefore is related to the languages of the desert areas such as Warnman, Kartujarra, Manyjilyjarra, Kukatja, Nyiyaparli, Wangkajunga, Pitjantjatjara etc. These languages have some structures and features in common or similar.


Written Example of the Language


Ngana yini nyuntu?

What is your name?


Wanyjawarrakun yanayin?

Where are you going?


Yanayinparna Purumukarti.

I am going to Broome


Wanyjajanun nyuntu?

Where are you from?


Ngayurna Perthpajanu.

I am from Perth


Paltipalti kuwarri!

Its hot today!


Yuwayi! karrpuwati paltipalti.

Yes! The midday sun is hot.