L25: Wangkumara

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
Wangkumara language
ABS name
Horton name
Ethnologue name
Ngura [Wongkumara]
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Wangkumara (valid variant), Wonkamara, Wonko-marra, Wonkamarra, Wonkamura, Wonkamurra, Wonku-bara, Wanggumara, Papagunu (rude Jandruwanta name, means 'dog dung'), Balpamadramadra ( ? horde at Nappa Merrie), Jaramarala ( ? horde at Baryulah).
O'Grady et al (1966)
Wankgumara, Wonkamara, Wonkomarra, Wonkamarra, Wonkamura, Wonkamurra, Wonkubara
Other sources
Ngura, Bundamara, Diraila, Jarumarra, Karendala, Kungatutji, Mamwura, Ngandangara, Ngurawola, Punthamara, Thiraila, Wankumara, Balpamadramadra, Jaramarala, Papagunu, Wanggamara, Wanggumara, Wankgumara, Wongkumara, Wonkamara, Wonkamarra, Wonkamura, Wonkamurra, Wonkomarra, Wonkubara, Modern Wangkumara, Wonko marra, Wonku bara

 Breen (1971:12, 27), McDonald and Wurm (1979:1-3), Bowern (2001:256, note 25) and Wafer and Lissarrague (2008:286) describe two varieties of Wangkumara: original Wangkumara, which is associated with the Bulloo River languages, and Modern Wangkumara, which is associated with the Wilson River languages.

It appears that some speakers of the Bulloo River Wangkumara moved from the Bulloo River area (Thargomindah) to the Wilson River area (Nockatunga area) and adopted some features of the Wilson River language (Breen 1971:12). McDonald and Wurm (1979:2), however, claim that the linguistic evidence supports Tindale's (1940) hypothesis of a migration in the opposite direction.

Wilson River Wangkumara is a member of the Karnic languages while the Bulloo River Wangkumara is member of 'Karna-Mari fringe' languages (Wafer and Lissarrague 2008:286-287). Breen (2007:18) describes Karna-Mari fringe languages as 'a discontinuous group of languages, mostly poorly attested, scattered between Karnic and Mari languages but not showing much connection with either or with one another. The only one well attested is also the most remote geographically, Kalkutungu.'

In this database, the code L25 was previously used to refer to both varieties of Wangkumara, given that the Wilson River (or Modern) Wangkumara originated in Bulloo River Wangkumara (or vice versa), even though two varieties are considered to belong to different language groups. However, as there is evidence of both varieties, and they are distinct, they are now treated individually in AUSTLANG and in the Thesaurus. Bulloo River Wangkumara retains the L25 code, while Wilson River Wangkumara (or Modern Wangkumara) has a new code, L68. Given the confusion between the two varieties, though, documentation for Wangkumara L68 may also be relevant.

Breen (1971:18) says that Palpakunu L64 is a Jandruwanda L18 term for the 'Wilson River group of dialects, i.e. Mambangura L20, modern Wangkumara and Kungatutji L16, Punthamara and others now extinct'. Breen (1967:2) also states that the languages (though he goes on to refer to them as groups) spoken along the Wilson River are identical: Bundhamara (L26), Gungadudji L16, Wanggumara and Ngandangura L30.


  • Bowern, Claire. 2001. Karnic classification revisited. In Forty years on: Ken Hale and Australian languages, ed. Jane Simpson, et al., 245-261. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Breen, Gavan. 1967. Notes on Wangkumara and Bundhumara [Punthamara]. (MS 119)
  • Breen, Gavan. 1971. Aboriginal languages of western Queensland. Linguistic Communications, vol. 5, pp. 1-88. (p BRE)
  • Breen, Gavan. 2007. Reassessing Karnic. Australian Journal of Linguistics 27(2):175-199.
  • Curr, Edward Micklethwaite. 1886-87. The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia, and the routes by which it spread itself over that continent. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government Printer; London: Trübner.
  • McDonald, Maryalyce & Stephen A. Wurm. 1979. Basic materials in Wangkumara (Galali): grammar, sentences and vocabulary: Pacific Linguistics B-65. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.
  • Myles, Frederic W. 1886. Thargominda, Bulloo River. In The Australian race vol. 2, ed. E. M. Curr, 36-43. Melbourne: John Farnes, Government Printer.
  • Tindale, Norman B. 1940. Distribution of Australian Aboriginal tribes: a field survey. Transactions of the Royal Society of SA 64:140-231.
  • 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.
  • Wafer, Jim, and Amanda Lissarrague. 2008. A handbook of Aboriginal languages of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Nambucca Heads: Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative.
State / Territory: 
Location information: 

Northwest of Annandale, at Kalidawarry, lower portion of Field and Cooper Creek east of Nappa Merrie and Orientos to the Wilson River at Nockatunga. In postcontact times at Chastleton and NCarcowlah where they mixed with uncircumcised Kalali. Mathews (1905) used the tribal term as a general name for several tribes with similar languages along Cooper Creek (Tindale 1974:190).

... inhabits the Bulloo within a radius of twenty miles around Thargominda (Myles, in Curr 1886-87:36).



Gavan Breen conducted a Wangkumarra literacy course in Bourke in 1982 (Wafer & Lissarrague 2008:285). The Nulla Nulla Local Aboriginal Land Council managed a Wangkumara Language Program from 1992-95 (Palmer et al. 2000:56 as cited in Wafer & Lissarrague 2008:285).

Gavan Breen, Luise Hercus, Janet Mathews, Carol Robertson, Margaret Sharpe, Muda Aboriginal Corporation
Indigenous organisations: 

Muda Aboriginal Corporation
PO Box 363
45 Mitchell Street Bourke NSW 2840
Ph 02 68721233
Fax 02 68721228

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 Small (20-100 pages) 2
Text Collection Small (20-100 pages) 2
Grammar Sketch grammar (less than 100 pages) 2
Audio-visual More than 10 3
Manuscript note: 
tape transcription/field note available

Robertson, Carol. 1984. Wangkumara grammar and dictionary. Sydney: Department of Technical and Further Education, Aboriginal Education Unit.

Also see McDonald, Maryalyce. 1979. Basic materials in Wankumara (Galali) : grammars, sentences and vocabulary: Pacific Linguistics B65. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics.


Robertson, Carol. 1984. Wangkumara grammar and dictionary. Sydney: Department of Technical and Further Education, Aboriginal Education Unit.

Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Ngura Ngura [Wongkumara] Ngura [dialects: Punthamara (Bundhamara), Kalali (Galali, Garlali), Wongkumara (Wangkumara, Wangumarra), Badjiri, Bidjara, Dhiraila, Garandala, Mambangura, Mingbari, Ngurawarla, Yarumarra. Walsh list the dialects as separate languages.]
Dixon (2002)   LAKE EYRE BASIN AREAL GROUP South-west Queensland group Wangkumara Wangkumara further dialect: Punthamara
Wurm (1994) Pama-Nyungan Karnic   Wanggumara  
Walsh (1981) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Ngura Wanggumara  
Oates (1975) Pama-Nyungan Karnic Ngura Modern Wangkumara  
Wurm (1972) Pama-Nyungan Dieric Ngura Wangkumara  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Pama-Nyungan Dieric Ngura Wongkumara