Centre for Australian Languages and Linguistics


Yókkarra | Njonja | Jichicha | Maningrida Fish Project

Senior men Don Wilton, Jimmy Olsen and Stuart Ankin, traditional owners of clan estates along the north-central Arnhem Land coastline to the north and east of Maningrida have been involved with a fishing enterprise through Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation. Don is the owner of Nardilmuk, owned by Kunibídji people, and this is the main base for the fishing operation.

As part of this project we took the opportunity to dig up some research done through the Maningrida school language program into fish names and knowledge. This includes some books and a significant database of knowledge that was compiled by linguist Carolyn Coleman (1980s-2000s). At a workshop in November 2017, Carolyn worked with Na-kara elders Jimmy Kalamirnda and Mary Nabalangkarra on checking the fish names in this database. Jimmy and Mary are seasoned language workers, having worked closely with linguist Bronwyn Eather on the Na-kara Dictionary. They are also excellent at catching fish and know the species that live along their coast, rivers, creeks and swamps very well.

The fishing enterprise is also featured in an ABC article from 10 June 2017. A link to that story is at ABC News story about the fishing enterprise. Don Wilton speaks about the project on A Big Country. Listen to an interview with Don Wilton on A Big Country.

This project produced a fish poster, aiming to support the teaching and learning of fish names from a number of local languages. It shows the main fish caught by the fishing team, with names in 5 languages – Ndjébbana, Na-kara, Burarra, English and Latin.

The film, Yokkarra, funded by the Community Broadcasting Foundation and produced as part of the project, won an award at the ICTV 2019 awards and is available on ICTV. The film, can be viewed on ICTV as part of the Our Tucker collection. The film was also screened at the Winda film festival.

Thank you to: Jimmy Kalamirnda, Mary Nabalangkarra, Don Wilton, Stuart Ankin, Clem Bresson, David Mason, Carolyn Coleman, Alastair James, Rebecca Green, Mason Scholes.

ICTVPlay Yokkarra Batchelor

Photographs: David Mason and Margaret Carew

Eather, B. and J. Kalamirnda (2005). A first dictionary of Na-Kara. Winnellie, NT, Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation.