What do you call that plant or animal in Bininj Gunwok?

2 September 2014


A new online resource documenting Aboriginal names for plants and animals in Kakadu and west Arnhem Land is now available.

For more than 20 years, linguist and anthropologist Murray Garde has been learning and working together with Bininj people to document and support the Bininj Gunwok dialects of the region.

Bininj Gunwok is a dialect chain that stretches from Kakadu National Park in the west through to the Mann, Liverpool and Cadell rivers districts south of Maningrida.

The online resource includes the Bininj Gunwok names for common plant and animal species from the region, beautiful artwork and photographs, and audio files of the Bininj Gunwok name so that users can hear how to pronounce words. Users can also upload their own photos of natural species.

Murray says that many people working and living in the region need to know the Bininj Gunwok names for natural species, because it is a basic first step in land management and ecological knowledge recording.

“Indigenous land management rangers, scientists, linguists, arts centre workers, tourists, students and others who have an interest in Indigenous ecological knowledge will find this online resource useful,” he said.

“Making lists of names may sound straightforward, but there are six different Bininj Gunwok dialects which often have vocabulary differences for various species, and Indigenous systems of taxonomy are different to those used in western science.”

It was decided at a Kakadu Board meeting in 2013 that making the names more accessible would take the burden away from Bininj involved in land management and non-Indigenous researchers, who are regularly asked for the correct names and spelling.

The resource is a work in progress, as it will take some years to fill all the categories out for all dialects. Please help by contributing information or photographs. Log on to http://mayh-dja-kundulk.bininjgunwok.org.au/, call (08) 8946 7619 or email nerp.northern@cdu.edu.au.

This project is supported by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Language Support program and the Northern Australia Hub of the National Environmental Research Program.

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