In 2019 the United Nations General Assembly declared 2019 the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) and since then the period 2022-2032 has been declared International Decade of Indigenous Languages. Following an interest from my youth, in 2019 I completed a short course at Curtin University in Noongar Language and Culture and have continued to do a modicum of studies in that area. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I knew a small number of Noongar words that I had been exposed to and was blissfully unaware of the origin (e.g., "gidgee" for hand-spear). The following is my own collection of course notes from multiple sources on the subject of the Noongar language which I have found useful, and I hope you do too.

Noongar Language in Context

The Noongar are an Australian aboriginal people who live in the southwest of Western Australia, from Geraldton to the north on the west coast to Esperance to the east on the south coast. The Noongar language (Noongar waangkaniny), is a mutually intelligible dialect continuum, is part of the wider of the Pama-Nyungan language family. There are well over 20,000 people who identify as Noongar, several hundred who speak the language with a good degree of fluency and several thousand who use common greetings and other phrases. Very few however use it as their primary language. Note that there are many variations in the way "Noongar" is spelled (e.g., Nyungar, Nyoongar, Nyungah, Nyoongah) according to tradition and personal preference. Another influence is because Noongar was an oral language, early writings were often carried out by explorers and settlers (Matthew Flinder produced the list of words) who recorded words as they heard them and without even basic linguistic training.

The Noongar people and language suffered under British colonisation which officially began in 1829 with the establishment of the Swan River Colony on Noongar boodja (country). What followed was a typical story of violence, rape, murder, the dispossession of land, and the destruction of culture, religion, and language. In many contexts that mattered (e.g., education) the speaking of Noongar was altogether prohibited. This was not just a loss of a language as mere words, but also a loss of culture and connection, as Noongar words often reflect their ecology and environment; for example, in the Noongar language, the word for river and the umbilical cord is the same (bilya), representing a body of life-sustaining fluids.