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Language of the Month | Bunuba, Stories, Language, Fitzroy, Kimberley, Crossing, Station, Aboriginal | FATSILC, Fed. Aboriginal Torres Strait Island Languages and Culture
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Languages in the Kimberley
Thangani Bunuba [Bunuba Stories]

"It is only recently that the Bunuba language has been written down, and this is the first major publication of Bunuba stories."

June Oscar Bunuba Woman, Executive Member KLRC

Bunuba country extends from the township of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, north along the Fitzroy River to Jijidju (Dimond Gorge), and follows Miluwindi (King Leopold Ranges) to Napier Range in the west. It includes Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge) and Tunnel Creek national parks. The southern extreme extends from Malarabah (Erskine Range) to Dawadiya (Trig Hill) near Fitzroy Crossing, and includes Danggu (Geikie Gorge National Park).


Our neighbours are Gooniyandi in the east, Unggumi and Ngarinyin to the north, Nyikina to the west and Walmajarri to the south.

There are about a hundred Bunuba speakers, most of whom are older people now living in Junjuwa, an Aboriginal community in Fitzroy Crossing. The Bunuba elders are concerned that the language is not being spoken by the younger people. Language is central to culture and we Bunuba people want our language to stay strong.

In the past, stories were passed on by parents and grandparents, who told them to the children around campfires at night. This is one of the ways the Bunuba people have kept their history. It is only recently that the Bunuba language has been written down, and this is the first major publication of Bunuba stories.

These stories are for the future Bunuba generations.

In the last decade many Aboriginal people in the Kimberley have moved back to their traditional country and established communities. Some groups have been able to acquire cattle station leases, while others have had to be content with settling on small areas of land excised from existing station leases. The Bunuba Aboriginal Corporation has acquired three pastoral leases which are on traditional land -Yarranggi  (Leopold Station), Miluwindi (Millie Windie Station) and Yuwa (Fairfield Station) are now all owned and run by Bunuba people. It is now easier to go back to our country, taking the kids and showing them our traditional ways and telling them our traditional stories. Bunuba people enjoy telling and listening to stories about all sorts of things. This book is a collection of some of these stories."

Languages in the Kimberley

"The Kimberley region holds a special position in the distribution of Australian Aboriginal languages. All Aboriginal languages can be classified as either Pama-Nyungan or non-Pama-Nyungan. The PamaNyungan group covers nine-tenths of the continent. All languages in this group can be shown to be related and therefore belonging to this single group. The non-PamaNyungan group exists in a relatively small area in northern Australia and is made up of some twenty distinct language families. In the Kimberley area alone there are some four separate families, each made up of several languages. Bunuba is a non-Pama-Nyungan language and, along with only one other - Gooniyandi - belongs to the Bunuban family."

Community talents combine in Bunuba collection

The Bunuba Elders of Fitzroy Crossing initiated the Thangani Bunuba project, and asked for support from the Kimberley Language Resource Centre.The stories for the book were collected in Fitzroy Crossing, and then the work of writing and translating them into English was continued at the Fitzroy Crossing Annexe of the KLRC.

The stories were told by the elders; Gamanggu (Rita Middleton); lrrmali (Johnny Marr); Jalakbiya (Molly Jalakbiya); Madiyawu (Jamie Marr); Mindawidji (Jimmy Green); Nyawanday (Casey Ross);Wayani (Billy Oscar) and Wibiy (Nancy Rogers).Three younger Bunuba women, Dianne Chungul, Selina Middleton and June Oscar checked the translation and spelling of the text, with June Oscar writing the introductions to each section.

The beautiful colour paintings are by Bindayminy (Banjo Bindayminy), Gamahggu Irrmali, Jalakbiya, Nyawanday (Casey Ross) and Wanbayji (Emily Brooking). Striking black and white illustrations in the book are the work of Eddie Green; B.J. Williams; Kaylene Marr and Rose Cox.

Acknowledgement is also given to Hans Beutenmuller, Leah Stackpoole, Emily Knight,Alan Rumsey and Pat Lowe for their help in various stages with editing and translation.

Like most oral history projects, it was a team effort over many years that finally brought the project to completion.

For further information or to order copies of Bunuba Stories, contact the Kimberley Language Resource Centre on tel 08 9168 6005 or
fax 08 9168 6023

Ray Spirit Children
Spirit Children
By Nyawanday (Casey Ross)

Ray garuwa-yuwa jurug'a
yaarri-ingga ngayi mila'yarra
muway-ngana baga'arranya
maaningga yaarri-ingga baga'yarra
yajil'arri buga.
Ray are the spirit children.
They swim around in the water.
We can't see them, but they can see us.
At night, when we are asleep, they come
and visit us and make us dream about
children who are going to be born.