How we can all use Dharug dhalang every day


Warami! Eagle-eye readers would have noticed we changed things up in our NAIDOC-week edition of This Week – or Bumarang Darrabarra.

Dharug dhalang – the Aboriginal language from the land on which Macquarie University stands – is becoming more commonplace around campus. Aside from programs and physical location names, how can we all contribute to keeping this local language and culture alive?

To celebrate this special edition, and to help us learn a little more about something we can all easily embrace, This Week teamed up with Walanga Muru to delve a little deeper into Dharug dhalang and perhaps a simple solution to awakening and keeping local language alive.

It’s estimated that there are more than 250 Aboriginal languages in Australia, with approximately 120 currently in use today. While many are at risk of being ‘lost’ forever, Taylah Pearce, Team Leader of Student Engagement at Walangu Muru, likes to look at this in a more positive light – that they are not lost, instead they are sleeping and need reawakening.

Taylah is encouraging Macquarie staff to take a more active role in reigniting Aboriginal language, especially Dharug. It might be something as simple as embracing a few words and phrases from Dharug dhalang and using them in your email greetings, or teaching them to your children so as to pass on the language and increase its collective value to our community.

One barrier might be that people from non-Indigenous backgrounds might view language use as cultural appropriation, that it’s not ‘theirs’ to use. Not so says Taylah, who would be thrilled to see everyone open to learning more about our rich history. With Dharug land stretching in all directions to encompass much of greater Sydney, it’s a good reason to embrace just one small part of the local Aboriginal culture.

“Feel free to utilise words like ‘Warami’ (war-a-me) and ‘Yanu’ (yarn-ooin your everyday language,” says Taylah. “Take your learnings and these words and teach your family and friends.”

But it doesn’t stop with ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’. See the list below for some deadly phrases that Taylah says we can all adopt.

Another reason Aboriginal languages are not more commonplace is the fact they are primarily oral and not written. This means that there are many spelling and grammar variances, and the recording of these has mostly been completed by European linguists and therefore is prone to English understandings. For example, ‘bumarang’ in Dharug is more commonly written down and understood as ‘boomerang’. Different written recordings of words mean that they are more easily ‘lost’, or simply misunderstood.

Taylah says that consulting with Aboriginal community about language and all other Aboriginal concepts is key to making sure that when it is written down – such as the selection of ‘Wallumattagal’ for the campus name – we get the breakdown of the spelling correct.

Wallu – refers to the black snapper fish (the local totem)
Matta – refers to ‘place of’
Gal – refers to ‘people of’

While it’s just the beginning, Taylah is excited to see Dharug dhalang utilised and showcased around Wallumattagal campus. It’s an excitement that she is thrilled to also see reflected in others.

“It takes a community and a long journey to revitalise a language and I am so privileged to be a part of Macquarie’s steps in this process and to see my mother language being embraced and celebrated on campus,” says Taylah.

Some deadly Dharug dhalang to learn

  • Warami – hello/ where are you from? (war-a-me)
  • Yanu – goodbye (yarn-oo)
  • Nigiyini budyari – are you good? (near-ngi bood-jar-ri)
  • Budyari nawunya – good to see you (bood-jar-ri na-woon-ya)
  • Yuwin – yes (yoo-win)
  • Biyal – no (bye-yal)
  • Budyari – good (bood-jar-ri)
  • Mittigar – friend (mitt-ee-gar)
  • Yura – people (you-ra)
  • Darrabarra – day (durra-burra)
  • Didgerigura – thank you  (didge-er-re-goor)
  • Walanga Muru – follow your path (wa-lang-gar moo-roo)


    • Wagul – 1
    • Bulla – 2
    • Bulla wagul – 3
    • Bulla bulla – 4
    • Dhamara – 5

And so on… did you pick up the pattern?

Phrases you would have noticed in the NAIDOC-themed EDM

(getting a bit more complicated and creative in the translation)

      • Bumarang Darrabarra – This Week (using the boomerang to represent 7, and word for day)
      • Marri bayala – More news (more/big conversations)
      • Gulya guri-budyari – Need to know (gulya – request, guri-budyari – ‘ear good’ or ‘intelligence’)
      • Mii yagu – What’s on (what’s now/today)
      • Macquarie bayala – Macquarie in the Media (Macquarie conversations)

Want to learn more? Check out this online Dharug dhalang dictionary and expand your Aboriginal lexicon and help keep the language flame alive.





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  1. Budyari narwunya Dharug dhalangwa (Dharug speaking) Wallumattagal ngurrungra (Wallumattagal area).
    Good to see you Dharug speaking on Wallumattagal (place and people of the Wallumai Black Snapper fish) area.

    yanamawa budyari gumada,
    walking with good spirit

  2. Thank you for this! It’s wonderful to have some common greetings and phrases translated into local language.

    I will try to use more Dharug dhalang in everyday conversation (I had some of the same concerns about appropriation but I’ll take this article as permission, at least when I’m on campus!)

    My choir (Solidarity Choir) sings one song in Dharug dhalang (and we’d love to learn more!), as well as a couple in other languages (Pitjantjatjara and Djabugay), that we have been given permission to sing by the composers and/or translators.

    Banga budyari gunyalungalung!!

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