Revival of the Ngunnawal Language

Numbers vary greatly as to how many languages were spoken in Australia prior to colonisation. We do know that there were at least 250 distinct languages, which would have had further dialectal differences within them. Some people estimate that there were over 700 languages. Within NSW and ACT there are around 70 different language groups.

Due to the impact of colonisation, all the of Australian languages (ie. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages) are under threat. Due to genocidal actions, assimilationist government policies, and other social pressures many languages fell out of use. Of all the linguistic diversity that was present in Australia only 123 languages are still used in some form today. For most of these languages this means only a few elderly members of the community remember the language. Happily, however, the tide is slowly changing for many communities who were forced to stop speaking their languages, and around 40 languages are being re-awakened, or revived, for communities to use once again. The Ngunnawal language of the Canberra region and surrounds is one such language.

Reconciliation NSW's Nation/Language Map of NSW and ACT

In 2019, the UN Year of Indigenous Languages, I compiled a word-list and wrote a sketch grammar of Ngunnawal based primarily on historical records. This sketch grammar and word-list are now being used to support the process of language revitalisation.

The Winanggaay Ngunnawal Language Aboriginal Corporation consists of dedicated community members passionate about bringing Ngunnawal language back into daily usage. They meet weekly to learn as much language as they can, support other people in the Ngunnawal community learn language, and deal with language requests from the broader community.


Dhawura nguna dhawura Ngunnawal. I acknowledge I live and work on Ngunnawal country. I pay respect to the country, culture, language and people, especially the Ngunnawal Elders. I would also like to extend my respect to the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which you live, wherever you may be in the world.