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Traditional Knowledge: Languages & Place names

Guide to resources for traditional knowledge research

The purpose of this page is to provide resources for locating information on indigenous language and place names. Included resources are maps, thesaurus, guides and databases.


Map of Indigenous Australia



The Aboriginal Language Map attempts to represent all of the language or tribal or nation groups of Indigenous people of Australia.




AUSTLANG database is supported by AIATSIS and provides information about Aboriginal & Torres Islander languages & Place names from a number of sources.

The database contains the following information about each Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language:

  • alternative/variant names and spellings
  • history of the number of speakers
  • geographical distribution
  • classifications from various sources
  • resources
  • documentation
  • programs
  • researchers

DOBES. Documentation of Endangered Languages incl JaminJung

Jaminjung Language


The aim of the project is to document the linguistic and cultural knowledge of the remaining few hundred speakers of several language varieties belonging to two language groups in the Victoria River District in Northern Australia. These varieties are Jaminjung, Ngaliwurru and Nungali (members of the Jaminjungan family, one of the Non-Pama-Nyungan language groups) and Gurindji, Ngarinyman, and Bilinarra (belonging to the Ngumpin subgroup of the Pama-Nyungan language family). 




PARADISEC (Pacific And Regional Archive for DIgital Sources in Endangered Cultures) curates digital material about small or endangered languages. The catalog entry for an item is usually written by the depositor, and some are more detailed than others. .

Recent news articles from 2016.

Geographic Place Names

Place Name Resources

Aboriginal Place Names

Hercus, L. A., & Koch, H. J. (2009). Aboriginal placenames: Naming and re-naming the Australian landscape. Retrieved from: Link

The Land IS A Map

Hercus, L. A., Hodges, F., & Simpson, J. H. (2009). The land is a map: Placenames of indigenous origin in Australia. Retrieved from: Link  

The Land IS A Map

AIATSIS. (2015). AIATSIS Place Thesaurus. (Also available are the Subject and Language thesauri). Retrieved from: Link 

Living the Language - Australia. The Aboriginal People. Al Jazeera 2014

AIATSIS Thesauri & Geoscience Australia 'Place Names Search'

AIATSIS Pathways

Select an option from the menu below to search its' contents. Search the AIATSIS Language and Peoples thesaurus or the AIATSIS Place thesaurus

CSIROThe Geoscience Australia 'Place Names Search'  is the result of the cooperative effort of State, Territory and Commonwealth governments. Search for a place name, geographical feature or select an area on a map.


OZBIB is a bibliography of published works and theses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. OZBIB was compiled by Geraldine Triffitt and Lois Carrington and published in 1999 from the Pacific Linguistics. The supplement to OZBIB was published in 2005 from the Mulini Press. The copyright of OZBIB has been acquired by AIATSIS, and an electronic version of OZBIB is maintained by AIATSIS. AIATSIS wishes to acknowledge Geraldine Triffitt and Lois Carrington for their work on OZBIB.

AustKin Project

The AustKin database and website provide access to kinship terminologies and social category systems from published and archival sources for over 607 Australian Aboriginal languages. There are various ways to search and browse through the database

Website to help retain Indigenous kinship systems


"A lot of the way you speak is dictated by how you are related. When outsiders come into Aboriginal communities, there has to be an establishment of relationship. "People won't speak to you unless they know you're in the right kinship category for them to speak to," she said. Dr McConvell said the AustKin site, had the potential to help non-Aboriginal people or organisations in their dealings with Indigenous communities..

Virtual library - Australian Aboriginal Languages

This site gives a comprehensive and well maintained guide to links and sources for around 80 of Australia's Aboriginal languages, of which around 20 are still strong. About 35% of these resources are produced by Indigenous people. Search can be limited to a State or Region.

All the resources are classified under categories such as Organisations, Dictionaries, Films & videos, Language rights, Academic papers etc. Click on the link ("Click to categories") and a list of categories will be displayed. Click on any category to see resources for that category.

The Conversation. May 27th 2014

Muting Indigenous language support only widens the gap

Rachel Nordlinger, University of Melbourne and Ruth Singer, University of Melbourne

Indigenous languages are under attack yet again. The federal budget, released on May 13, includes a substantial reduction of A$9.5 million over four years for the Indigenous Languages Support Programme (ILS), which will now be funded at A$11.1 million a year. The ILS assists language-related initiatives across Australia and provides important employment opportunities for Indigenous communities.

The Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory, released the day after the budget, also has as one of its principle recommendations that the primary school curriculum be delivered (only) in English.

That’s despite the many submissions to the review process arguing for the benefits of bilingual education for children whose first language is not English. Research shows clearly that bilingual education, which combines a first language and English, is the best way to teach Indigenous children how to be literate and competent in English – a view also held by indigenous educators.

The most recent blows for Indigenous languages come despite the fact that an enormous body of evidence, as outlined below, highlights the importance of Indigenous languages for the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.

The 2012 federal government inquiry into language learning in Indigenous communities produced the Our Land, Our Languages report, which has as its first recommendation that:

the Commonwealth government include in the Closing the Gap framework acknowledgement of the fundamental role and importance of Indigenous languages in preserving heritage and improving outcomes for Indigenous people.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the full original article.

The Conversation

Rachel Nordlinger, Associate Professor and Reader, Research Unit for Indigenous Language, School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne and Ruth Singer, DECRA postdoctoral fellow, Research Unit for Indigenous Language, School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne

Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages


The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive of endangered literature in Australian Indigenous languages of the Northern Territory. This is a living archive, with connections to the people and communities where the books were created. This will allow for collaborative research work with the Indigenous authorities and communities