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Aboriginal Placenames

Notes on Contributors

Val Attenbrow is a Principal Research Scientist in the Anthropology Unit, Research Branch, at the Australian Museum, where she has worked since 1989. Her research interests focus on the Aboriginal archaeology and ethno-history of south-eastern Australia, in particular on land and resource use patterns, subsistence and material culture. She has undertaken major fieldwork projects in Upper Mangrove Creek on the New South Wales (NSW) central coast and around Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). Her interest in Aboriginal placenames developed during research for her book Sydney’s Aboriginal Past (2003).

Paul Black is a Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Charles Darwin University. After completing a doctorate on comparative Cushitic at Yale in 1975 he came to Australia to undertake salvage work on south-western Cape York Peninsular languages, including Kurtjar, providing the basis for a comparative study of Norman Pama in 1980, as well as the present paper. In the 1980s he taught speakers of Australian languages at the School of Australian Linguistics, and in 1990 he moved into his current position, in which he still publishes occasional comparative work on Australian languages.

Claire Bowern is Assistant Professor of Linguistics at Yale University. After undergraduate work in Linguistics and Classics at The Australian National University, she completed her PhD at Harvard on historical reconstruction of Bardi verb morphology. She has done extensive fieldwork on Bardi and has recently started working with speakers of Yan-nhangu, a Yolngu language from Eastern Arnhem Land. She is the editor with Harold Koch of Australian Languages: Classification and the Comparative Method and is currently working on a five-year National Science Foundation grant to reconstruct Pama-Nyungan language and prehistory.

John Bradley is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Deputy Director of the Centre for Australian Indigenous Studies at Monash University. He holds a PhD in anthropology form the Charles Darwin University. His work is interdisciplinary and ranges from cultural resource management, species management, in particular marine mammals. He has worked with the Yanyuwa people of the south-west Gulf of Carpentaria for 30 years on issues associated with language preservation, land and sea claims and emotional ties to homelands. His current research interests extend to animation as a way of preserving language and culture and the cross-generational transfer of knowledge.

Ian D. Clark is an Associate Professor in Tourism in the School of Business at the University of Ballarat. He completed his PhD in western Victorian Aboriginal historical geography at Monash University in 1992. He has worked extensively with The Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages and in 2002 published the Dictionary of Aboriginal Placenames of Victoria. He has been employed as the research fellow in history at Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and as manager of the Brambuk Aboriginal Centre in Halls Gap. From 1989-1991 he worked as a senior researcher in the then Victorian Tourism Commission and conducted the research and oversaw the implementation of the submission to restore Indigenous placenames in and around the Grampians-Gariwerd National Park. His research interests include the history of tourism, Aboriginal history and placenames.

Mark Clendon is an anthropological linguist and independent researcher associated with the University of Adelaide. He has worked extensively with Western Australian languages and published articles on their grammar and symbolism, and on linguistic prehistory. He has transcribed and translated traditional and historical texts for publication in the Western Desert language, as well as Worrorra, Nyangumarta and Warnman. He is currently engaged in a major Nyangumarta oral history project as well as preparing a comprehensive grammar of the north Kimberley language Worrorra.

Luise Hercus is a Visiting Fellow in Linguistics, in the School of Language Studies, The Australian National University. She has been studying Aboriginal languages for the last 47 years, mainly in the Lake Eyre Basin. She has worked with speakers of languages which are now no longer in use, such as Kuyani in South Australia, Malyangapa in NSW and Wemba-Wemba in Victoria/NSW. She has produced grammars and dictionaries for a number of languages, as well as papers on Aboriginal traditional knowledge of songs, mythology, and geography. She edited, with Flavia Hodges and Jane Simpson, The Land is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia (Pandanus Books, Canberra, 2002).

Amanda Kearney is a Lecturer in Anthropology, School of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of New South Wales. She holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Her work is interdisciplinary, and facilitates a socially complicated approach to people’s relationships with place, memory and identity over time. Amanda’s principal research interests are Indigenous Australian cultural engagements with homelands, material culture studies, and the politics of place. Her current research interests extend into emotional geographies, and intangible cultural expressions.

Richard Kimber is a historian and writer from Alice Springs who has spent the past 30 years working with central desert Aboriginal communities, travelling widely with traditional owners. During his time in central Australia he has worked as a secondary and tertiary teacher. He was the first Sacred Sites officer appointed in the Northern Territory, in 1974. He was senior Papunya Tula Artists Coordinator from 1976 to 1978 and has worked on behalf of various Aboriginal groups to assist in presentation of their land claims and Native Title claims.

Harold Koch is a Visiting Fellow in Linguistics in the School of Language Studies, The Australian National University, where he has recently retired from his teaching position. Harold has been involved in Aboriginal linguistics since the 1970s, after completing a doctorate on comparative Indo-European linguistics at Harvard in 1973. His research has focused on Kaytetye and the other Arandic languages of Central Australia and issues in the historical-comparative linguistics of the Australian languages in general. He co-edited, with Claire Bowern, Australian languages: classification and the comparative method (John Benjamins, Amsterdam, 2004). During the last few years he has been investigating the historical documentation on the Indigenous languages and placenames of south-eastern New South Wales.

Laura Kostanski began to research the area of toponymy when undertaking her Honours degree in History at Monash University in 2003. She recently completed her PhD at the University of Ballarat under an Australian Research Council - Postgraduate Award (Industry) project which investigated the restoration of Indigenous toponyms in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park in the early 1990s. Her research focuses on exploring the wider cultural and social significance of toponyms and on developing theories to define the attachments, identities and dependencies people form with places and their names. She co-convened, with Ian Clark, the ‘Trends in Toponymy Conference’ at the University of Ballarat in 26-30 November 2007. Laura is currently employed with the Office of Geographic Names, Victoria.

Dr R. Marika passed away in May 2008, a few days before her fifthieth birthday. Her death is a tragic loss for her family, the Yolngu community and the many people who were enriched by her life. Acknowledgements of her contributions to reconciliation and education included honorary doctorates awarded by Charles Darwin University, The Australian National University, and the Order of Australia. She was a passionate advocate of bilingual education and was instrumental in the development of ‘both ways education’. She wrote numerous scholarly and general articles, and the other two authors of the present chapter benefited immensely from collaborating with her. An obituary appears in the journal Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2009, vol. 1.

Patrick McConvell is a Research Fellow in the School of Language Studies, The Australian National University, working on projects on Australian Indigenous kinship, and international comparison of language change among hunter-gatherers. From 2000 to 2008 he was Research Fellow, Language and Society, at AIATSIS, Canberra, and before that taught anthropology at the Northern Territory University and Griffith University, and has worked in Indigenous language programs in schools in Western Australia. He has carried out linguistic and anthropological fieldwork in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory, and in the Kimberley and Pilbara of Western Australia.

John McEntee gained an interest in linguistics at Pulteney Grammar School, Adelaide. Over the years, this interest in languages was further enhanced with a study of Asian languages, particularly Sanskrit. For over 40 years he has worked in the pastoral industry in the Flinders Ranges, South Australia, and has been privileged to learn about the Aboriginal and European natural history of the area. The knowledge handed down from his Adnyamathanha teachers has led him to develop an in depth understanding of the local people and environment. In 1972, he began recording Adnyamathanha language and culture, and in 1992 published an Adnyamathanha - English dictionary.

Paul Monaghan has a PhD in linguistics from the University of Adelaide, for which he focused on land-language issues in the north-west of South Australia. He has worked in a number of roles in the sphere of Aboriginal language and culture, including as consultant anthropologist at the South Australian Museum, where the contribution to this volume was written. He has also developed a number of Aboriginal language and culture documentation projects on the Far West Coast of South Australia since 2004. Based in Sydney, he is currently engaged in setting up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Archive at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Jim Smith is an independent researcher and works as a heritage and environmental consultant. His Masters degree research was a study of historical non-Aboriginal pathways and routes through the Blue Mountains region and his doctorate a review of the cultural landscapes of Gundungurra people. He is particularly interested in mapping the places where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal histories intersect. A summary of his recent research is the chapter ‘Seeing Gundungurra Country’ in Blue Mountains Dreaming, Eugene Stockton and John Merriman (eds) 2009, second edition.

Jakelin Troy did a PhD in linguistics at The Australian National University on the history and description of NSW Pidgin. She also worked on reconstructing the language of the Sydney area and in 1993 published The Sydney Language as one of the AIATSIS dictionary project books. She has worked for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs NSW, and served for several years as the Director of the NSW Aboriginal Languages Research and Resource Centre. In this capacity she organised a number of workshops on placenames for Aboriginal communities, in conjunction with the NSW Geographical Names Board and the Australian National Placenames Survey.

Michael Walsh has carried out fieldwork in the Northern Territory, mainly in the Darwin-Daly region since 1972. This has been a mixture of academic endeavours as well as consultancies since 1979 mainly relating to Aboriginal land issues. From 1999 he has been involved in the revitalisation of Aboriginal languages in NSW. From 1982 until the end of 2005 he was part of the teaching staff of the Department of Linguistics, University of Sydney. Since then, as an Honorary Associate, he has continued his research interests especially through a large ARC grant involving a team of linguists and musicologists running from 2004 to 2009 (

Melanie Wilkinson has a PhD in linguistics from the University of Sydney. This was a description of Djambarrpuyngu, one of the Yolngu language varieties. She began working with Yolngu in 1980 and since 1991 has worked as an advisor with schools in the East Arnhem area for the Northern Territory Education Department. During this time her work has focussed on support for Bilingual and Two-Way Learning programs as well as Indigenous Language and Culture programs. She is based in Nhulunbuy/Yirrkala.

Nancy Williams is an anthropologist who received her PhD from the University of California. She has worked with Yolngu people since 1969 and has published books and articles on Yolngu land tenure, dispute management, and cultural and natural resource management. She has taught at the University of Washington, the Northern Territory University, and the University of Queensland, and is currently an Honorary Reader in the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland.

Greg Windsor holds a Bachelor of Spatial Information degree and is currently undertaking postgraduate research through Charles Sturt University focusing on the recognition of community regions within NSW. Greg has worked with the NSW Department of Lands for nearly 20 years. Since June 2000 he has held the position of Secretary of the Geographical Names Board of NSW and is currently the Secretary of the Committee for Geographical Names of Australasia (CGNA). Greg has presented papers for the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), and has presented course material at a United Nations Training Course in Toponymy. Greg is currently employed as a Senior Project Officer for the Common Spatial Information Initiative (CS2i); his responsibilities include the rationalisation of spatial imagery across government and the review of legislation dealing with addressing.

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