Language today

Bundjalung is being revived, taught and spoken in many places on Bundjalung country:

  • Rick Cook has been teaching language for decades, watch his interview ‘Sharing Bundjalung Mother tongue’ at
  • Bundjalung is one of the Language Nests established by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Language teacher, Glen Rhodes can be contacted at:
  • Bunjum Aboriginal Corporation in Ballina has run a Culture Matters Project, to help local Aboriginal artists to develop their visual arts and crafts, paintings, sculptures, textiles etc. For an update on Language teaching activities see:

    Thelma James’ Bundjalung café ‘Gunnawannabe’ was the host for a language workshop held in Lismore.
  • The Yugambeh Museum, Language and Heritage Research Centre aims to record and promote the traditional knowledge of their region, especially the Yugambeh language. See


Recording Elders

Muurrbay has worked with several Bundjalung speakers and organisations:

  • Recording introductory Bundjalung – Wahlubal langugae lessons by Poppy Harry Walker. In 2022 we plan to upload these for easy access.
  • Sadly Uncle Charles Moran has now passed on, but Muurrbay was fortunate to record some of his valuable language knowledge.
  • The Bundjalung-Yugambeh online dictionary is based on many years of research with Elders, from the Clarence River in NSW to Beenleigh and Beaudesert in QLD, compiled by linguist Margaret Sharpe and developed as an online resource by IT specialist Cat Kutay. It is available online at
  • An electronic version of the Bundjalung-Yugambeh Dictionary is available online
    Gary Williams, Uncle Charles Moran & Poppy Harry Walker at the DVD launch


  • Poppy Harry Walker created a set of six Language/culture DVDs 


Language and dialect names

At the time of first contact with Europeans in the mid 1800s, there were up to 20 dialects of Bundjalung. ‘Bundjalung’ has been used as a general term for the whole language, covering all the different dialects, and also to refer to certain individual dialects. However, each dialect has a specific name of its own. 

Dialects include: Wahlubal (also known as Western Bandjalang), Yugambeh, Birrihn, the Barryugil dialect, Bandjalang, Wudjebal, Wiyabal, Wuhyabal, Minyangbal, Gidhabal, Galibal and Ngarrahngbal. 

Many of these names describe something about that dialect. For example, Gidhabal means ‘those who say gidha for alright’, while Wiyabal means ‘those who say wiya for you’.  It is thought that the term ‘Bandjalung’ was originally used to describe the dialect spoken around Bangawalbin Creek.

Many people, including researchers, have been writing down information about the Bundjalung language since the late 1800s. A large collection of sound recordings of Bundjalung speakers, and researchers’ field notes are held at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra.

There are four dialects that have been described in detail:

  • Yugambeh: Cunningham’s 1969 grammar
  • Gidabal: the Geytenbeek’s 1971 grammar and word-list;
  • Wahlubal or Western Bundjalung: Crowley’s 1978 grammar and wordlist is the most detailed available;
  • Casino dialect: Smythe’s 1940s description first appeared in Crowley 1978;

There are brief sketch grammars on several Bundjalung dialects, including:

  • Minjangbal dialect of Byron Bay, Livingstone (1892),
  • Biirin dialect of Rappville and the Baryulgil dialect, Crowley (n.d)
  • Bundjalung dialect of Bungawalbin Creek, Holmer (1971)
  • over 17 word-lists from various areas, Hargrave (Science of Man:1903)
  • Sharpe’s description of  the ‘Yugambeh-Bundjalung dialect chain’.


Language features

  • A variety of spelling systems are being used for different dialects. Work that Muurrbay has been involved in uses the following
  • Bundjalung has four vowels, written: i, a, u and e, they can also be pronounced as a longer vowel. There are ten consonants: b, d, dj, g, m, n, ng, ny, l, r, w and y.
  • Nouns take many different suffixes (tag endings) to mark such roles as subject, object, instrument, location, movement towards, possession and to make feminine from masculine nouns. Nouns can also show singular and plural in three classes: masculine, feminine, and neuter or tree nouns.
  • Verbs have four tenses: future, present, and two pasts; various suffixes also show that someone ‘keeps on’ doing something, or that people are doing something ‘to each other’ .
  • Word order is fairly free, although there is a tendency toward Subject – Object – Verb word order.

Books etc

Gurgun Mibinyah: Yugambeh, Ngarahngwal, Ngahnduwal: A dictionary and grammar of Mibiny language varieties from the Logan to the Tweed rivers 2020, Margaret Sharpe. Gurgun Mibinyah means belonging to Mibiny speakers. This is a dictionary-grammar of the northern varieties of the Yugambeh-Bundjalung language group. 

All Yugambeh-Bundjalung Dictionary and Grammar can be ordered from the author at:

An electronic version of the Bundjalung-Yugambeh Dictionary is available online here.

Written examples of the language

These sentences are from Wahlubal/Western Bandjalang ( Crowley:1978).

Ngay waymalehla nganyahya nguyaya.
I am speaking my own language.

Nyarram mala behn gudjahrra.
The frilled-neck lizard fell into a hole.

Wanah yirrali-ngahyumah.
Don’t (speak in) English.

Mala baygal djehrr.
That man is big.

Djununu wudja yang giwani.
Where have you come from?

Maliyu dandaygambu yarbini.
That man sang (a song).

Mala bin-gihng birrah waybarra mala waganyngula.
Throw that turtle onto the fire, and that catfish too!

Yuh ngali yanah buyan gala djahnanah.
Let’s go later when the wind stops.