K39: Gaambera

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Kambera, Gambera, Kamberange (members of the tribe), Kanbre, Gambre, Barurungari (means 'upland' or 'plateau people'; term used also for other tribes), Kambumiri (name of West Bay and area of World War II Truscott Airfield), Purungari (lit. 'coast people'; applied by Worora).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Other sources
Kularri/Gularri 'south-westerners' (regional term used to refer to Wunambal, Gamberre and Worrorra - Perez 1977, Perez, Pratt & Millington 1981, Torres, Pratt & Millington 1986) [Carr 2000:13] Gaambera [Karadada et al. 2011]
Gamberre, Gambre, Kambure, Barurungari, Gamgre, Guwan, Kambera, Kamberange, Kambumiri, Kanbre, Purungari, Gambere, Kambre, Kularri/Gularri south westerners, Worrorran

Gaambera is a non-Pama-Nyungan language of the Worrorran family, specifically Northern Worrorran, along with Miwa K44; Gunin/Kwini K36; Wilawila K35; Yiiji K32; Wunambal K22; and (tentitively) Gulunggulu K59 (McGregor and Rumsey, 2009:8).

Karadada et al. (2011:15) comment that Gaambera and Wunambal K22 are 'very closely related', with very little difference in pronunciation and lexicon. 'It is possible that there were some differences in the past but in recent times these differences have faded.' The 'Uunguu plants and animals' dictionary basically treats them as a single language, with additional Gaambera forms given where they are different.


  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Jones, Barbara. 2006. The Forrest River language: a book about the indigenous language of the Forrest River region. Halls Creek, WA: Kimberley Language Resource Centre.
  • Karadada, Jack, Lily Karadada, Wilfred Goonack, Geoffrey Mangolamara, William Bunjuck, Louis Karadada, Basil Djanghara, Sylvester Mangolamara, Janet Oobagooma, Agnes Charles, Dianna Williams, Regina Karadada, Thomas Saunders, and Glenn Wightman. 2011. Uunguu plants and animals: Aboriginal biological knowledge from Wunambal Gaambera Country in the north-west Kimberley, Australia. Wyndham, W.A.: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation.
  • McGregor, William, & Alan Rumsey. 2009. Worrorran revisited: the case for genetic relations among languages of the Northern Kimberley region of Western Australia: Pacific Linguistics 600. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Tindale, Norman B. 1974. Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits, and proper names. Berkeley: University of California Press/Canberra: Australian National University Press.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Coasts of Admiralty Gulf except in the vicinity of Osborne Islands; east to Monger Creek in Napier Broome Bay; south only to southern rim of valley of King Edward River; a horde on Sir Graham Moore Island, whose people were chiefly marine food gatherers (Tindale 1974).(On McGregor's map 1983, it extends further to East.)

The general association was to the coast from the Osborne Islands to Poempangala Hill, and attendant drainages into this section of coast. In his description of Wunambal, Tindale states 'the Tjawurungari (Tawandjangango) were on the Osborne Islands. The last-named were also called Wilawila people and their language is thought to have affinities with Kambure. According to a native informant they are 'light Kambure' speakers. Another tribe claiming the name Wilawila lives on the Carson River (see separate heading)'. The motivation for Tindale excluding the Osborne Islands from the Gaambera area is obscure, especially as his informant described them as speaking Gaambera. In 2007, nobody recognized the name Wila-Wila as applying to the Carson River area. However, two separate sources recognized the name as applying focally to an insular Wunambalic variety. One source specifically associated the name to Bigge Island and the adjacent coastal Hunter River area. This is within Wunambal country.Tom Vigilante stated that his understanding was that the area was Gaambera. Vigilante also stated that the drainage of Monger Creek was Gaambera, with the eastern boundary being in the Poempangala hill range. Anthony Redmond stated that the name Gaambera did not extend into the King Edward River drainage (Harvey AILEC 0802).

Wunambal Gaambera Country lies in the north west Kimberley area of Western Australia. It incorporates some 200 kilometers of coastal and inland country, from Prince Frederick Harbour in the south west to Napier Broome Bay in the northeast, including parts of the King Edward River, the Anjo and Bougainville Peninsulas, the Mitchell and Gardner Plateaus, the Mitchell and lower Roe Rivers, the Bonaparte Archipelago and the Admiralty Gulf Aboriginal Reserve. It also includes large areas of intensely dissected coastal country, the seas of the Bonaparte Archipelago and Admiralty Gulf with many islands, the largest being Bigge Island, estuaries bays and harbours' (Karadada et al. 2011:10)

Contemporary location Wunambal Gaambera people mainly live in the communities of Kalumburu, Kandiwal and Mowanjum near Derby, with some speakers also living in Kununurra and Wyndham, as well as a few outstations and camps in the dry season. (Karadada et al. 2001:10).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Konin (A35 ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

5.18 Gamberre / Gambre

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Gambere (Hudson & McConvell), Gambera (Oates, Vaszolyi, SIL), Gambre (AIAS, Capell, Oates & Oates, O'Grady, Coate, Crawford), Gamgre, Guwan, Kambera (Hernandez), Kambre (Love), 'Kambure (Tindale)
Classification of the language:
Worrorran family, Wunambalic group
Identification codes:
Oates 1973: 48.2
Capell: K7
Present number and distribution of speakers:
Kalumburu Mission and Wyndham
Oates - 6 old people
People who have worked intensively on the language:
No one
Practical orthography:
Word lists:
Capell (1940), Capell & Coate (1984), SIL (1971)
Textual material:
Crawford (1969)
Grammar or sketch grammar:
None; Capell & Coate (1984) contains some information.
Material available on the language:
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
_____ .1972. The languages of the northern Kimberley, W.A.: some structural principles. Oceania 43. 54-65.
Capell, A. & Coate, H.H.J. 1984. Comparative studies in northern Kimberley languages. Canberra: PL, C-69.
Crawford, I.M. 1969. Late prehistoric changes in Aboriginal cultures in Kimberley, Western Australia. PhD thesis, University of London.
Glasgow, D.I., Hocking, F.M. & Steiner, W.L. nd. Report [to AIAS] on surveys of languages and dialects of the north-east Kimberleys. 9pp. typescript. AIAS.
Summer Institute of Linguistics. 1971. AIAS word list for N.E. Kimberleys survey: Gambera. AIAS tapes A2188,2189. AIAS pMs 1800.
Language programme:
Language learning material:
Literacy material:

McGregor, William. 1988 Handbook of Kimberley Languages. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. © Author.

AIATSIS gratefully acknowledge William McGregor for permission to use his material in AUSTLANG.


KLRC and linguist Margaret Howard worked with language speakers at Kalumburu in the late 1990s. (Carr 2000:7).

In 2021-23 the community employed Jason Lee as a Language and Culture Officer. A dictionary was produced in 2023 and work was underway to publish stories in language, and produce a language curriculum.

Margaret Howard (nee Sefton), Daisy Utemorrah (dec.), Therese Carr, Thomas Saunders, Jason Lee
Indigenous organisations: 

Kimberley Language Resource Cente, Wunambal-Gambera Native Title Corporation

Year Source Speaker numbers

Speaker numbers were measured differently across the censuses and various other sources listed in AUSTLANG. You are encouraged to refer to the sources.

Speaker numbers for ‘NILS 2004’ and ‘2005 estimate’ come from 'Table F.3: Numbers of speakers of Australian Indigenous languages (various surveys)' in 'Appendix F NILS endangerment and absolute number results' in McConvell, Marmion and McNicol 2005, pages 198-230 (PDF, 2.5MB).

Type Documentation Status Documentation Score
Word list Medium (100-200 pages) 3
Text Collection Less than 20 pages 1
Grammar None 0
Audio-visual 1-10 2
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available (Nekes) - unclear status

Karadada, J. et al. 2011. Uunguu plants and animals: Aboriginal biological knowledge from Wunambal Gaambera Country in the north-west Kimberley, Australia. Wyndham, WA: Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Wororan     Gambera  
Dixon (2002)   NORTH KIMBERLEY AREAL GROUP   Gamberre Wunambal McGregor (1993) further dialects: Wilawila, Gamberre, Kwini (=Gunin), Ginan, Miwa (=Bagu), Yiidji (=Forrest River)
Wurm (1994) Wororan Wunambalic   Gambera  
Walsh (1981) Wororan Wunambalic   Gambera  
Oates (1975) Wororan Wunambalic   Gambera  
Wurm (1972) Wororan Wunambalic   Gambre  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Wororan Wunambalic   Gambre