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Wiradjuri people
aka: Waradgeri, Warandgeri, Waradajhi, Werogery, Wiiratheri, Wira-Athoree, Wiradjuri, Wiradhuri, Wiradhurri, Wiraduri, Wiradyuri, Wiraiarai, Wiraidyuri, Wirajeree, Wirashuri, Wiratheri, Wirracharee, Wirrai'yarrai, Wirrathuri, Wooragurie(Tindale)[1]
Language Family: Pama–Nyungan
Language Branch: Yuin–Kuric
Language Group: Wiradhuric
Group Dialects: Wiradjuri
Area (approx. 97,100 sq. km)
BioRegion: Central New South Wales
Location: Central New South Wales
Coordinates: 33°50′S 147°30′E / 33.833°S 147.500°E / -33.833; 147.500Coordinates: 33°50′S 147°30′E / 33.833°S 147.500°E / -33.833; 147.500[1]
Rivers Lachlan (Kalare), Macquarie (Wambool)
Notable individuals

The Wiradjuri people (Wiradjuri northern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjd̪uːraj]) or Wirraayjuurray people (Wiradjuri southern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjɟuːraj]) are a group of indigenous people of Australian Aborigines that were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans scattered throughout central New South Wales.

In the 21st century, major Wiradjuri groups live in Condobolin, Peak Hill, Narrandera and Griffith. There are significant populations at Wagga Wagga and Leeton and smaller groups at West Wyalong, Parkes, Dubbo, Forbes, Cootamundra, Cowra and Young.


A Wiradjuri warrior, thought to be Windradyne

The Wiradjuri name for themselves is Wirraaydhuurray (northern dialect; pronounced [wiraːjd̪uːraj]) or Wirraayjuurray (southern dialect; [wiraːjɟuːraj]). This is derived from wirraay, meaning "no" or "not", with the suffix -dhuurray or -juuray meaning "having". That the Wiradjuri said wirraay, as opposed to some other word for "no", was seen as a distinctive feature of their speech, and several other tribes in New South Wales, to the west of the Great Dividing Range, are similarly named after their own words for "no".[3]

Attempts to reproduce the name in writing cover more than 60 different ways, including Waradgeri, Warandgeri, Waradajhi, Werogery, Wiiratheri, Wira-Athoree, Wiradjuri, Wiradhuri, Wiradhurri, Wiraduri, Wiradyuri, Wiraiarai, Wiraidyuri, Wirajeree, Wirashuri, Wiratheri, Wirracharee, Wirrai'yarrai, Wirrathuri, Wooragurie.


The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They occupy a large area in central New South Wales, from the Blue Mountains in the east, to Hay in the west, north to Nyngan and south to Albury: the South Western slopes region.[1]

The Wiradjuri tribal area has been described as "the land of the three rivers, the Wambool later known as the Macquarie, the Kalare later known as the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, or Murrumbidjeri. The Murray River forms the Wiradjuri's southern boundary, the change from woodland to open grassland form their eastern boundary."[4]

Occupation of the land by the Wiradjuri can be seen by carved trees and campsite remainders. Carved trees are more commonly found around the Macquarie and Lachlan rivers in the north rather than the Murrumbidgee in the south. Campsites, which indicate regular seasonal occupation by small groups, have been found on river flats, open land and by rivers.

Norman Tindale quotes Alfred Howitt as mentioning several of these local groups of the tribe, for example, the Narrandera (prickly lizard), Cootamundra (Kuta-mundra) from kutamun turtle, Murranbulla or Murring-bulle (maring-bula, two bark canoes). There were differences in dialect in some areas, including around Bathurst and near Albury. The Wiradjuri are identified as a coherent group as they maintained a cycle of ceremonies that moved in a ring around the whole tribal area. This cycle led to tribal coherence despite the large occupied area.


The Wiradjuri diet included yabbies and fish such as Murray cod from the rivers. In dry seasons, they ate kangaroos, emus and food gathered from the land, including fruit, nuts, yam daisies (Microseris lanceolata), wattle seeds, and orchid tubers. The Wiradjuri travelled into Alpine areas in the summer to feast on Bogong moths.

The Wiradjuri were also known for their handsome possum-skin cloaks stitched together from several possum furs. Governor Macquarie was presented with one of these cloaks by a Wiradjuri man when he visited Bathurst in 1815.

Wiradjuri Language

The Wiradjuri language had effectively died out of everyday spoken use, but has recently been reclaimed from early European anthropologist's records and from words contributed by several Wiradjuri families,[5] by elder Stan Grant, a member of the Wiradjuri Elder's Council, and John Rudder Ph.D., who has previously studied Australian Aboriginal languages in Arnhem Land. It is a member of the small Wiradhuric branch of the Pama–Nyungan family. It is now taught in some primary schools[6] and can be studied at TAFE. One student says "I love singing the songs like 'Heads, shoulders, knees and toes' in Wiradjuri". The copyright for A First Wiradjuri Dictionary is held by the Wiradjuri Council of Elders.

The name of the town of Wagga Wagga comes from the Wiradjuri word Wagga meaning crow, and to create the plural, the Wiradjuri repeat the word. Thus the name translates as "the place of many crows".

European settlement

Clashes between European settlers and Aborigines were very violent from 1821 to 1827, particularly around Bathurst, and have been termed the Bathurst Wars. The loss of fishing grounds and significant sites and the killing of Aboriginal People was retaliated through attacks with spears on cattle and stockmen. In the 1850s there were still corroborees around Mudgee but there were fewer clashes. European settlement had taken hold and the Aboriginal population was in decline.

Notable people

  • Brook Andrew, notable artist.
  • Linda Burney, member of the NSW Legislative Assembly.
  • Wally Carr, Australian Commonwealth Boxing Champion.
  • Jimmy Clements, present at the opening of Provisional Parliament House in 1927.
  • Paul Coe, lawyer and activist.
  • Kevin Gilbert, 20th century author.
  • Evonne Goolagong, one of Australia's most famous tennis players.
  • Sally Goold OAM, Executive Director of CATSIN, Senior Australian of the Year 2006[7]
  • Stan Grant, notable Australian journalist.
  • Stan Grant, a Wiradjuri elder, has been working on the reconstruction of the language.
  • Anita Heiss contemporary novelist.
  • Marcia Langton, academic.
  • Bill Onus, activist.
  • Lin Onus, artist.
  • David Peachey, rugby league footballer.[8]
  • Mum (Shirl) Smith MBE OAM, community activist.
  • Margaret Tucker, co-founder of the Australian Aborigines League and author of If Everyone Cared (1977) one of the first autobiographies to deal with the experience of the Stolen Generations.
  • Tony Briggs is an Australian actor, writer and producer. - In 1988, Briggs had the recurring role of Pete Baxter on television soap opera Neighbours. This was followed by many roles in television series such as Blue Heelers, Stingers and The Man From Snowy River. From 1997 he appeared in children's television series Ocean Girl as Dave Hartley.[1] From 2009, Briggs appeared in the television series The Circuit as Mick Mathers.[2] In 2011, Briggs played Bilal in The Slap, based on the book by Christos Tsiolkas.[3] He also had a small role in Redfern Now in 2012. Briggs wrote the Helpmann Award winning play The Sapphires which was first performed in 2004. It tells the story of The Sapphires, a singing group of four Koori women who tour Vietnam during the war.[4][5] It is inspired by the true story of his mother, Laurel Robinson, and aunt, Lois Peeler, who toured Vietnam as singers in 1968.[6] Briggs adapted the play for the 2012 film The Sapphires.[7] His movie roles include Australian Rules in 2002,[8] Bran Nue Dae in 2009 and Healing in 2014.[9]
  • Jarrod Atkinson is an Australian rules footballer who played for Essendon. He began the 2008 season on the rookie list but was elevated to the senior list to replace Andrew Lovett[1] and debuted in round 7. Great Grand nephew of Margaret Tucker, Great Grand son of Margaret Tucker's sister Gerladine Briggs (nee Clement)
  • Sean Charles (born 18 May 1975)[2] is a former Australian rules footballer who played with Melbourne, Carlton and St Kilda in the Australian Football League (AFL). Sean is the Great Grand nephew of Margaret Tucker, and Great Grand son of Margaret Tucker's sister Gerladine Briggs (nee Clement)
  • David Wirrpanda - current AFL player with the West Coast Eagles, known for his community work in helping to improve the lives of young indigenous Australians. The David Wirrpanda Foundation was launched in 2005. He was named the 9th most influential Aboriginal Australian by The Bulletin magazine on 30 November 2007.[1] davidis the Grand nephew of Margaret Tucker, and Grand son of Margaret Tucker's sister Gerladine Briggs (nee Clement)
  • Harry Wedge notable artist.
  • Neville "Uncle Chappy" Williams, land activist and proponent in the Lake Cowal Campaign.
  • Tara June Winch, author.
  • Windradyne, important Aboriginal leader during the Bathurst Wars.
  • Daniel Christian, member of the Australian cricket team.
  • Rae Johnston, Actor and Lifestyle Editor at Techlife Australia
  • AJ Williams, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid Manager
  • Alan Dargin, famous didgeridoo player
  • Brendon Cook, International Racing Driver

Wiradjuri culture in fiction

The short story "Death in the Dawntime", originally published in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives (Mike Ashley, editor; 1995), is a murder mystery that takes place entirely among the Wiradjuri people before the arrival of Europeans in Australia. The story prominently features various concepts in Wiradjuri folklore and tradition, such as the ngurupal: this is an area within the tribal territory which is a public assembly space for adult male Wiradjuri who have been formally initiated into manhood, yet which is forbidden ground for females or uninitiated males. Some of the dialogue in this story is in the Wiradjuri language. In Bryce Courtenay's novel Jessica, the plot is centred in Wiradjuri region. Jessica's best friend (Mary Simpson) was from Wiradjuri.[9] Noel Beddoe's novel "The Yalda Crossing" also explores Wiradjuri history from an early settler perspective, bringing to life a little-known massacre that occurred in the 1830s. Andy Kissane's poem, 'The Station Owner's Daughter, Narrandera' tells a story about the aftermath of that same massacre, and was the inspiration for Alex Ryan's short film, 'Ngurrumbang',[10] a finalist in the 2013 Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Tindale, Norman (1974). "Wiradjuri (NSW)" (online extract). Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. South Australian Museum. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Dousset, Laurent (2005). "Wiradjuri". AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Macquarie Aboriginal Words. Sydney: Macquarie Library. 1994. pp. 24, 79–80, 87. 
  4. ^ Coe, Mary. Windradyne: A Wiradjuri Koori. p. 4 in Patrick, Kathy; Samantha Simmons (1994). "Australian Museum's Aboriginal Collections: Wiradjuri" (PDF). Australian Museum. p. 39. Retrieved 18 September 2007.  . 
  5. ^ S Grant, J Rudder, A first Wiradjuri dictionary, Restoration House, 2005
  6. ^ Trish Albert, Keeping Language Alive, National Museum of Australia, 2008
  7. ^ "Senior Australian of the Year". australianoftheyear.org.au. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "David Peachey Foundation". The David Peachey Foundation. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  9. ^ Courtney, Bryce (1998). Jessica. Viking Australia. ISBN 0-670-88351-4. 
  10. ^ http://ngurrumbang.com/
  11. ^ http://www.sff.org.au/public/films/program/dendy-awards-for-australian-short-films/

External links