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Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Languages Centre

Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre manages programs which record, analyse, preserve, maintain and promote the Pilbara region’s 31 Aboriginal languages.
Margaret Florey, Nick Thieberger, Lorraine Injie and Rose Murray outside Wangka Maya, November 1990

Margaret Florey, Nick Thieberger, Lorraine Injie and Rose Murray outside Wangka Maya, November 1990

Wangka Maya is one of the earliest and most prominent of the Indigenous language centres in Australia. It began in 1987 when a group of Aboriginal people began making recordings because they feared that Pilbara Aboriginal languages were in danger. This group went on to become incorporated as Wangka Maya in 1989. Some of the earliest members, including Lorraine Injie and Bruce Thomas, continue to be involved in the organisation as Board members today.

Nyaparu (William) Gardiner working on resources for the Nyangumarta language

Nyaparu (William) Gardiner working on resources for the Nyangumarta language

Some of Wangka Maya’s earliest publications were a series of booklets produced in collaboration with the local community and with assistance from linguists Brian Geytenbeek, Nick Thieberger and Alan Dench. Each booklet focussed on a particular language and included information on the traditional distribution of the language, a wordlist and short story with English translation.

Wangka Maya’s work has always been driven by the urgency to record language before the old people pass away. For this reason, Wangka Maya focussed on producing resources in those languages which had few remaining speakers, beginning with wordlists and dictionaries, followed by sketch grammars which describe the use and structure of the language. Over the years, with increasing community need for resources for language learners, Wangka Maya has produced more books and audio-visual material for children.

Wangka Maya's award-winning building in South Hedland.

Wangka Maya’s award-winning building in South Hedland.

Wangka Maya’s membership is made up of more than 90 Aboriginal people, many of whom speak Pilbara Indigenous languages. Members have input into Wangka Maya’s policies, priorities, projects, and strategic plan, to ensure that language work is responsive to community needs and interests. From the pharmacy-no-rx.net very members were determined to establish a dedicated Pilbara Language Centre. They began looking for land and funding for a building, and eventually in 2008 Wangka Maya moved into its award-winning building in South Hedland.

A range of resources have been produced for many of the 31 languages of the region. Many can be obtained from the Wangka Maya Online Store or by contacting the centre.