Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and
Culture Co-op
14 Bellwood Road
Telephone: 02 65 694 294

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Previous Years

2015 Indigenous Language Support (ILS) activities

In 2015, Muurrbay received support from ILS to revitalise languages by documenting, researching, archiving and publishing language materials, and teaching language, including:

Publishing: Second edition of Gumbaynggirr Dictionary and Learner’s Grammar was published in December 2015; this new edition was expanded and improved to meet the needs of the community.

Collected Gumbaynggirr Stories in two versions, for community and academics, are being edited in preparation for publishing. Ongoing archiving of materials including hosting a visit from the State Library of NSW and distributing audio collections for Gumbaynggirr, Gathang and Bundjalung.

Electronic resources: Increasing community access to language materials via online resources: Bundjalung- Yugambeh electronic dictionary is being finalised. All text has been completed, language workers are now adding audio files and seeking community feedback.

Courses: Certificate III in Gumbaynggirr Language and Culture Maintenance was accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), and will be delivered from July 2016.

Muurrbay is delivering the Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Language for the Gathang language in Taree, part-time via evening classes from July 2015 to December 2016.

Workshops: Two-day workshops for our Southern languages in Newcastle, and Northern languages in Grafton. Weekly Gumbaynggirr classes at Muurrbay with Michael Jarrett.

Professional development: Muurrbay received a special grant to support the professional development of staff, particularly Aboriginal Language Workers:

  • ten people completed the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
  • we supported twelve people to attend Puliima Aboriginal languages and Information Technology conference in Melbourne. Presented at Puliima Conference: Julie Long and Michael Jarrett presented on ‘User friendly teaching ideas’

The Indigenous Advancement Strategy enabled Muurrbay to employ Terrie Lowe as Bundjalung language co-ordinator, as part of this process Terrie has undertaken various activities for professional development, attending the Puliima conference, an Aboriginal linguistics Summer School at University of Sydney as well as completing an online Massive open online course (MOOC) on Endangered Languages, by teachers at the University of South Australia. Terrie along with Sharon Edgar-Jones (Wannaruwa researcher) and Caroline Bradshaw (Dhanggati researcher) also attended a week-long workshop offered by the Resource Network for Linguistic Diversity.

The most significant benefit in 2015 has been in the area of course development for adults: the re-registration of Muurrbay as a Registered Training Organisation, accreditation of the Certificate III in Gumbaynggirr Language and Culture Maintenance, and the delivery of the Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Language for the Gathang language in Taree.

2014 Indigenous Language Support (ILS) activities

In 2014, Muurrbay received support from ILS  to revitalise languages by documenting, researching, archiving and publishing language materials, and teaching language, including:

  • Increasing community access to language materials via online resources: Gathang FirstVoices website, developing and trialling ‘Gathang online’ a place where language workers and students can share ideas and ask questions.
  • Recording sessions with Bundjalung Elders in Tabulam and Casino.
  • Muurrbay teacher-linguist supported Yaygirr language classes.
  • Weekly Gumbaynggirr classes at Muurrbay
  • Gumbaynggirr language workers participated in skills training in glossing and linguistic/sociological interpretation and translations of Gumbaynggirr Dreaming stories.
  • Gathang translations for school signage.
  • Darkinyung and Wonnarua (Hunter River Lake Macquarie) meetings.
  • Consultation with Dhanggati language researcher about future projects.
  • Planning workshops where IT experts and linguists came together to refine the Bundjalung dictionary database.

Community Consultants who participated in documenting, recording, researching and publishing language materials were: Harry Walker, Charles Moran, Terrie Lowe and Tanya Marlowe (Bundjalung); Mandy Davis, Jeremy Saunders and Tony Ridgeway (Gathang); Sharon Edgar-Jones (HRLM & Gathang) Caroline Bradshaw (Dhanggati).

Research and Publishing Projects:

  • Documenting current Bundjalung- Wahlubal dialect by recording Uncle Charles Moran and Poppy Harry Walker; this will support community language learning and school programs.
  • Presented at AIATSIS Conference: Gumbaynggirr Collected Stories research project- glossing and dialectal analysis of the largest collection of Dreaming Stories on the Australian East coast. Preparing for publication, in electronic form of ‘A comparative linguistic analysis of Gumbaynggirr Dreaming Stories in three dialects’.
  • Publishing: Extensive editing of Gumbaynggirr dictionary-grammar, adding an index. Auntie Jessie Williams’ autobiography and the Gathang Stories DVD were published.
  • A draft Gathang site using Drupal has been developed by IT expert Cat Kutay.

Visitors to Muurrbay included:

  • Academics from ANU in Canberra
  • Sydney University Aboriginal Studies students
  • TAFE students
  • Elders groups from Maclean & Kempsey
  • Primary & High Schools in our local region
  • Aboriginal writers from Yolngu country.

The most significant benefit in the first half of 2014 has been the increase in Aboriginal people employed as language consultants and trainees.

2013 Language projects

In 2013 Muurrbay is focussing on course reaccreditation and development, including:

  • Accreditation of a Gumbaynggirr Certificate III.
  • Adapting TAFE South Australia’s Certificate III in Learning an Endangered Language for Gathang. This groundwork will be useful for developing courses in other languages.
  • Supporting the delivery of a Certificate I in Yaygirr at Maclean TAFE.
  • Workshopping teaching approaches with Bundjalung Elders and language teachers in Ballina and Tabulam.
  • Publishing  Gathang Stories DVD.
  • Supporting copying and distribution  of Margaret Sharpe’s electronic version of the All Yugambeh-Bundjalung Dictionary with grammar, texts etc.

2012 Language projects

2012 saw several exciting developments:

  • FirstVoices training for Gathang and Gumbaynggirr projects

    FirstVoices training for Gathang and Gumbaynggirr projects

    Muurrbay’s pilot project with FirstVoices Canada saw one language dictionary fro Gathang go online, with Gumbaynggirr to follow. The FirstVoices online language dictionary is being utilised by over forty Indigenous languages in Canada and the U.S. This is the first time that an Australian Aboriginal language has been given this opportunity. Next step is the phone App!

  • Workshops with Bundjalung Elders Poppy Harry Walker and Uncle Charles Moran, on recent developments in communicative language teaching.
  • Publishing of the Yaygirr dictionary and grammar, the language of the Clarence Valley around Maclean and Yamba. Brother Steve Morelli has been working with Yaegl elders to compile this long awaited resource, which will provide a strong foundation for future language classes and resources.
  • Gumbaynggirr classes and resource development: Certificate II is being taught at Muurrbay. Muurrbay has received an AIATSIS grant to work on the Gumbaynggirr Collected Stories. Steve Morelli and language researchers Gary Williams, Dallas Walker and Virginia Jarrett are glossing the stories according to the Leipzig rules.
  • Gathang Certificate I language classes will be offered in three towns, and teacher-linguist Julie Long is working with the Gathang Language Group to develop a Certificate II class.
  • Workshops with Darkinyung community members on new language resources and  communicative language teaching.
  • Advising Wonnarua Nation on developing a Welcome to country.

AIATSIS funds restoring of Gumbaynggirr stories

Probably the largest volume of Aboriginal language story material in South East Australia comes from the Gumbaynggirr area. Muurrbay is restoring and publishing the Nymboidan Gumbaynggirr stories of Phillip Shannon as found in researcher Gerhardt Laves’s manuscripts, and is comparing their language and story themes with those of other Gumbaynggirr sources. We are very grateful to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies for funding this research.

Muurrbay tree of life painting

This painting ‘Muurrbay Story’ by Gumbaynggirr-Bundjalung artist, Sharon Smith depicts one of the stories that will be analyzed as part of this project.

Muurrbay will present these stories in Laves’ orthography, standard Gumbaynggirr orthography, a gloss (Leipzig rules), and a free translation. Using examples of Southern stories of Harry Buchanan and Northern stories recorded by WE Smythe, a comparative outline of three Gumbaynggirr dialects will be made.  Indigenous researchers Dallas Walker, Gary Williams and Virginia Jarrett will train in glossing according to the Leipzig rules.

Muurrbay has already published a  limited number of a reader’s edition Gumbaynggirr Yuludarla in 1992, but it is now out of print. These stories are mainly from the Southern informant Harry Buchanan. Muurrbay is also preparing to publish an illustrated collection of all known Gumbaynggirr stories. However the language in these has been standardised to the southern dialect and glossing has been at a lay-person’s level.

This research will further the public recognition of Gumbaynggirr culture through place names and signage; e.g. the recognition and signage explanation of the Moon place at Coffs Harbour. Art, music, dance and drama presentations have already come about in the Goori community from opening up of local stories; and a carefully researched original presentation of these stories will help to authenticate and validate such cultural expressions. This presentation will help dispel Non-Aboriginal myths that ‘real’ Indigenous culture and language come from the Top End or the arid interior. They will engender pride in the Goori community and enable non-Indigenous people to appreciate the local Aboriginal heritage.

Linguistic subtleties of Gumbaynggirr, found almost exclusively in the Shannon stories will be made explicit through this proposed research. The stories contain several ways of expressing politeness and avoidance language. Highlighting these will militate against the myth that Aboriginal languages are ‘primitive’. Both the linguistic and the socio-cultural values of the Shannon stories that have been excluded from reader’s editions have convinced the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language Centre that these stories must be included in the proposed academic version.


2011 Language projects


Muurrbay and MRALC supports Aboriginal language revitalisation through activities that include:

  • Providing access to linguistic expertise, and training for Aboriginal people.
  • Recording languages wherever possible, and assisting with access to archival materials, providing a regional storage base for these materials.
  • Producing language materials such as dictionaries or wordlists, grammars, learner’s guides, transcriptions and translations.
  • Providing community access to languages by using, and assisting communities to use information technology such as: Transcriber, Shoebox, Powerpoint and Adobe Audition.
  • Employing linguists, Aboriginal language researchers and specialists in Information and Communication Technology.
  • Raising awareness in the wider community about the value of Aboriginal languages.