K37.1: Gajirrabeng

AIATSIS code: 
AIATSIS reference name: 


Thesaurus heading language
Thesaurus heading people
ABN name
ABS name
Kimberley Area Languages, nec (Gajirrawoong)
Horton name
Ethnologue name
ISO 639-3 code
Tindale name
Tindale (1974)
Kadjerawang, Kadjarong, Kadjeroen, Gadjerong, Kujera, Ginmu.
O'Grady et al (1966)
Kadjerong, Kadjeroen
Other sources
Gajirrabeng [McGregor 2004] Kujera, Ginmu [Basedow 1906:2]
Gajirrawung, Kimberley Area Languages, Gadjerawang, Kadjerong, Gadjerong, Gadyerong, Kadjerawang, Kadjeroen, Kadpjeroen, Kajirrawung, Gadyarawang, Gajerong, Ginmu, Kadjarong, Kujera Gajirrawoong the Mirrawoong name for Gajirrabeng, Gajirrebeng, Kujera

Gajirrabeng is a non-Pama Nyungan language from the east Kimberley of Western Australia, in a dialectal relationship with Wardanybeng. They belong to the Jarrgan language family, along with Miriwoong K29 and Gija K20. Gajirrabeng is also known by Gajirrawoong (K37.1), which is the Miriwoong name for this language and people, sometimes pronounced as Gadjerong. The arrival of the pastoral industry devastated the Gajairrabeng people and their neighbours (see Ngabidj, 1981), including massacres, disease and created dependence on pastoralists for work and sustenance (Endangered Languages Archive).

Tindale lists both Kujera and Ginmu as alternative names of Kadjerong K37.1. However, Basedow (1906:2) treats them as separate groups. Previously K37.1 was also used for Doolboong, which now has its own code, K50.


  • Endangered Languages Archive, <https://www.elararchive.org/dk0573> viewed 22/07/2021.
  • Harvey, Mark. 2008. Non-Pama-Nyungan Languages: land-language associations at colonisation. AILEC 0802.
  • Ngabidj, Grant. 1981. My country of the pelican dreaming : the life of an Australian Aborigine of the Gadjerong, Grant Ngabidj, 1904-1977 : as told to Bruce Shaw. Canberra:Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

  • 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: 

Gajirrabeng peoples’ country was traditionally north of Miriwoong and Gija country, in the east Kimberley of Western Australia, crossing the state border into the Northern Territory. Speakers of Jaminjung N18: lived to the east and Doolboong K50, Ganyayi and Bogayi people lived along the sea coast to the north west (Endangered Languages Archive).

North-eastern limit: There was no precise information on the north-eastern limit in 2007. The Victoria River appears to be the most likely boundary. Northern limit: The ecological change from higher ground to coastal flats. The coastal flats were associated with Dulngarri. Gajirrabeng has a comparatively limited saltwater vocabulary, and was associated by speakers with freshwater and higher ground, as opposed to Dulngarri, which was associated by Gajirrabeng speakers with coastal flats and saltwater. Legune homestead was associated with Gajirrabeng. Western limit: There was little precise information on the western limit in 2007. Gajirrabeng affiliations extended to Knob Peak and the Onslow Hills. Knob Peak was the north-western limit of Gajirrabeng affiliations. Southern limit: Drainage divide between Ord River and other drainages. Ord River drainages associated with Miriwoong. Other drainages associated with Gajirrabeng. South-eastern limit: The Pinkerton Ranges (Harvey AILEC 0802).

Westward from mouth of Fitzmaurice River along coast to the mouth of Keep River near the border of Western Australia; inland to about Border Springs, principally on low coastal mangrove islands and flats, visiting Quoin and Clump Islands and those off the mouth of Keyling Inlet; at Legune (Tindale 1974).


Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988): 

Ngukaja (A101* ) in Handbook of Kimberley Languages (1988).

3.6 Gajirrawoong / Gadjerong

Names of the language and different spellings that have been used:
Gadjerawang (AIAS, Black & Walsh), Gadjerong (Oates, AIAS, Tindale, Capell, O'Grady), Gadyerong (Hoddinott), Gajirrawoong (KLS), Kadjerawang, Kadjeroen , Kadjerong , Kadpjeroen, Kajirrawung (McGregor)
Classification of the language:
Jarrakan family, Miriwoongic (Miriwunic) group
Identification codes:
AIAS: K37.1
Oates 1973: 43.2
Capell: K9
Present number and distribution of speakers:
There are some speakers in Kununurra.
People who have worked intensively on the language:
Frances Kofod did some recording in the mid 1970s, and later in the mid 1980s, mainly at Kununurra.
Leone Dunn apparently did some recording in early 1980s in Kununurra.
Practical orthography:
None presently in use; the Miriwoong variant of the North Kimberley orthography would seem to be most appropriate.
Word lists:
Capell (1940)
Textual material:
None published, though Kofod has recorded some.
Grammar or sketch grammar:
None, but Kofod is in the process of preparing a sketch grammar.
Material available on the language:
Capell, A. 1940. The classification of languages in north and north-west Australia. Oceania 10. 241-272, 404-433.
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.

Katherine Regional Aboriginal Language Centre
Indigenous organisations: 

http://www.kathlangcentre.org.au/languages.htmMiriuwung Gajerrong Corporation" target="_blank">Diwurruwurru-jaru Katherine Regional Language Centre

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 Less than 20 pages 1
Text Collection None 0
Grammar None 0
Audio-visual 1-10 2
Manuscript note: 
not available
Source Family Group Sub-group Name Relationship
Ethnologue (2005) Djeragan     Gadjerawang  
Dixon (2002)   KITJA/MIRIWUNG SUBGROUP*   Gajirrawung Miriwung Kofod (1978) further dialect: Gajirrawung
Wurm (1994) Djeragan Miriwungic   Gadjerawang  
Walsh (1981) Djeragan Miriwungic   Gadjerawang (Gadjerong)  
Oates (1975) Djeragan Miriwunic   Gadjerong  
Wurm (1972) Djeragan Miriwunic   Gadjerong  
O'Grady, Voegelin and Voegelin (1966) Djeragan Miriwunic   Gadjerong