Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

  • Catherine Patricia Bow (Creator)
  • Michael Christie (Creator)
  • Brian Devlin (Creator)



Project Name: Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages

The Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages ( is a digital archive of endangered literature in approximately 25 Australian Indigenous languages from the Northern Territory, starting with books which were produced in NT Literature Production Centres during the era of bilingual education between 1973 and 2000. Approximately 4000 texts have been identified from 20 Literature Production Centres (most now closed), and due to the demise of bilingual programs, many of the materials produced for these programs are no longer in use, and in many places are being lost, damaged or, occasionally, deliberately destroyed.

The collection has been formed via interaction with language owners, who have been asked for permission to put the books in the archive, invited to make comments about them and asked if they would be happy to be contacted for further collaborative research work. Setting up the repository involves identifying and sourcing the books, scanning and digitising them, converting them to text files and checking both texts and metadata.

The collection includes a wide range of materials developed in the bilingual programs for use in the classroom, but also for the wider community. They included teaching materials, literacy primers, children’s stories, stories of local cultural significance, such as non-sacred versions of Dreaming or Creation stories, histories, experience stories, natural science, instructional manuals, cautionary tales, environmental knowledge, traditional practices, oral literature, and ethno-botany texts.

The materials derive from bilingual education programs in the following remote communities of the Northern Territory: Angurugu, Areyonga, Barunga, Galiwin’ku, Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), Kaltukatjara (Docker River), Lajamanu, Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa), Maningrida, Milingimbi, Nguiu (Wurrumiyanga), Numbulwar, Papunya, Umbakumba, Wadeye, Waḻungurru (Kintore), Warruwi, Willowra, Yipirinya, Yirrkala and Yuendumu.
The languages represented in the archive include: Anindilyakwa, Burarra, Dalabon, Dhuwal (including Djapu and Djambarrpuyŋu), Dhuwala, (including Gumatj and Gupapuyŋu), Djaŋu (including Warramiri), Djauan (Jawoyn), Djinaŋ, Eastern Arrernte, Gunwinggu (Kunwinjku), Gurrogoni, Kriol, Maung, Murrinh-Patha, Ndjébbana, Ngandi, Nunggubuyu (Wubuy), Pintupi-Luritja, Pitjantjatjara, Rembarrnga, Ritharrŋu, Tiwi, Warlpiri and Western Arrernte, with occasional items from other languages.

The dataset is available online through, which uses a custom-built interface to the materials stored on Charles Darwin University Library’s open source Fez and Fedora based research repository, known as eSpace. The dataset includes presentation copies of the materials – with PDF versions for display and printing, plus plain text files (in Unicode). The preservation versions (TIFF files of each digitised page) will be available on application. The metadata is compatible with OLAC (Open Language Archives Community) standards, and so can be easily harvested through search engines.

Access Condition: The materials in the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia license.

Type of Data in Collection: digitised books, audio

Description of Resource: 2632 open access records in CDU eSpace repository at 12th October 2015

Copyright Notice: CDU is committed to providing a research environment that will promote a high standard of professional conduct by its researchers, and a culture of research practice that is ethical, competent, safe and accountable. This research was conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in relevant Commonwealth and Northern Territory legislation and guidelines, and other University policies, procedures and guidelines. National guidelines that this research adhered to include: * The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (* Values and Ethics: Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (* National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research (* AIATSIS Guidelines for Ethical Research in Australian Indigenous Studies (* Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Protocols for Libraries, Archives and Information Services ( documents are all relevant to CDU policies and guidelines.
Date made available1 Jun 2013
PublisherCharles Darwin University - Datasets
Temporal coverage1973 - 2000
Date of data production2012 -
Geographical coverageNorthern Territory, Australia

Field of Research (FoR)

  • 2003 Language Studies

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