Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics


The Mail Run

Drawing of envelope with Australia Post stamp

The Mail Run was part of station life during the mid-20th Century, even to the extent that 'mailrun' was part of the local vernacular. Station owners would wait on the mailrun for their mail to come in. Every couple of weeks, one of the Aboriginal men would head off from Horseshoe Bend with the mail for all the nearby stations. They'd do the government run too, down to Oodnadatta and Marree and places around there. The men who did it loved it, heading off on a camping trip on horseback. This little audio-visual story made in the Martutharra/Luritja language project at Batchelor Institute tells a bit about this life. The Mail Run By Maureen Campbell, Merilyn Kenny, Reanna Campbell and Kyra Campbell.

The Camel Bite

boy with head in camel's mouth

Camels were very much a part of Aboriginal people's life. When my kids were young they knew what to do when they came across a camel. They'd jam it up into a corner and get on and ride it. They'd ride it home if they needed to. They were clever these kids. And they had freedom to run. They'd head off in the morning and come back later one for breakfast. This funny little story gives an insight into our life with camels. The Camel Bite by Merilyn Kenny, Maureen Campbell and Jack Orr

Maṯutharra/Luritja literacy lesson 1

Lesson 1

Paluru rama. 

Mamu maru.   

Mamu rama.         

Paluru maramara.

Mamu paluru



ma      mi      mu

la      li      lu

ra      ri      ru

Maṯutharra/Luritja literacy lesson 2

Lesson 2

Ngayulu wiya rama.

Ngayulu ara wiya.

Paluru mama ngayuku wiya.

Paluru wiya ngayuku umari.

Yuru wiya.

Paluru waru.

Wama ngayuku wayala.

Paluru wiya maru.

Ngayulu mayi wiya.

Uwa, paluru rama wiya.


wa      wi      wu

ya      yi      yu

a       i       u

Maṯutharra survival phrases

These survival phrases go with the accompanying video

The language learner works with the speaker to translate the phrases. The phrases can be used in the lessons so that the whole lessons are in language, no English.

What’s this? Nyaa nyangatha?

What’s that? Nyaa palatha?

How do you say …? Yaaltji yaaltji nyuntu wangkaku …?

I forget. Ngayulu pina patirringu.

I don’t understand.Ngayulu putu kulini.

I understand. Ngayulu kulini.

Say that again.Piyuku wangka.

Yes. Uwa.

No. Wiya.

Maybe. Tjinguru.

Good. Palya.

Say it slower. Purinyi wangka.

Say it louder. Punturu wangka.

Say it again. Piyuku wangka.

Let’s talk only in our language. Nganana wangka wangkama.

No English. English wiya.

What is he/she doing? Paluru nyaa palyani?

What are you doing? Nyurra nyaa palyani?

Who’s doing that? Nganalu alatji palyani?

How? Yaaltji yaaltjingku?

Where is it? Yaaltji paluru?

Where are you? Yaaltji nyurra?

Where did he come from? Yaaltji nguru paluru?

Where did you come from? Nyurra yaaltji nguru ngalyanu?

Who’s his mother? Palumpa yaku nganana?

What for? Why? Nyaaku? Nyaa nguru?

When? Yaalthara?

Greeting Wai?

How are you? Palya nyuntu?

I am good. Ngayulu palya.

See you later. Ngula nyakunthaku.

I don’t know. Ngayulu ngurrpa.

What? Nyaa?

Be quiet! Kanmarrari!

Say it again. Piyuku wangka.

Come here! Ngalyarra!

Get down! Pupakati!

Are you sick? Nyurra pikatharra?

I am sick. Ngayulu pikatharra.

Are you hungry? Nyurra paltha tjirratha?

I’m hungry. Ngayulu anmatharra.

What do you want? Nyaaku unthurringanyi?

I want … Ngayulu unthurringanyi ….

I want grog. Ngayulu unthurringanyi wamaku.

Give it to me! Ngayinya yuwa!

Wash your hands! Mara paltjila!

Yes Uwa

No Wiya

Where are your shoes? Yaaltji nyurampa tjinakutu?

What’s the time? Time nyaa nyangatja?

What day is it today? Yulta nyaa kuwarri?

Okay. What’s next? Uwa. Nyaa next?

Hurry up! Walala!

Are you coming? Nyurra nyalyayananyi?

I’m ready. Ngayulu ready.

Where are you going? Yaaltji-kutu nyurra yananyi?

I’m going to town. Ngayulu town-akutu yananyi.

Take it! Kati!

There’s a dog. Papa pala.


Maṯutharra Luritja survival phrases by Maureen Campbell with Dwight Campbell, Ian McCormack and Angela Harrison, filmed at CALL, Batchelor Institute Alice Springs 2022 following the Master-Apprentice (MAP) Conference held at Batchelor in August 2022. A text document 'LuritjaSD_tx_Survival phrases' accompanies this video.