A Short History of the Noongar language
Noongar is a language spoken across the Noongar nation which ranges from south of the town of Geraldton to Esperance. It covers the entire south-west corner of Western Australia.
Speaker’s ability ranges from a handful of people who speak fluently through to many thousands of people who speak phrases, words or greetings. Many more people identify as being of Noongar heritage.
Critical work on the recording, analysis, databasing and development of language preservation material is being undertaken by the Noongar Language Centre. This work is necessary in order to capture the language and ensure it’s preservation for future gernations.
Noongar is a language in rapid recovery with revival activities undertaken in many places across the vast Noongar landscape. NBLC aims to support language revival and use by working with all generations of people. NBLC will create the preservation documents necessary for language survival such as dictionaries, grammars and books. NBLC will also create language revival and learning resources such as educational programs, learner’s books, interactive learning resources and run actual language learning courses.
For information on the Noongar language learning courses, see the Events page on this website.
To obtain a copy of the NBLC brochure about linguistic work at NBLC, click here.
The Noongar Orthography
The orthography (spelling system) used by NBLCAC to write the Noongar language is based on decisions made during a series of Noongar language and culture meetings that took place in the south-west during the mid 1980s to late 1990s.
- Marribank 1985
- Wellington Mills 1990
- Narrogin 1991
- Dryandra Noongar Language Festival 1992
- Marribank 1997
Hundreds of Noongar Elders took part in these meetings and language festivals to discuss the Noongar language situation, document language and work towards developing a Noongar language course and dictionary. The first Noongar Language and Culture Centre was established in Bunbury at the Bunbury Aboriginal Progress Association in 1986. This small group of dedicated people took the lead in revitalising Noongar language and coordinating inclusive community workshops.
It was at the 1997 meeting at Marribank, attended by approximately 200 Noongar people, that an agreement was made on a standard orthography which was to be used for teaching Noongar in schools. There was a unanimous vote that the language would be spelt NYOONGAR. The establishment of a standard spelling system allowed for consistency across language programs and the development of a set of learning materials that could be shared across Noongar country. It is acknowledged that the reemerging Noongar has been developed under the influence of English and that there is still considerable work to be done to bring the Noongar language closer to its original voice.
In the process of developing the teaching and learning resources for the Languages Other Than English (LOTE) course in schools, the spelling was changed to NOONGAR.
Noongar Ochre Pits