Language family:Pama–Nyungan
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:Wiradhuric
Group dialects:Wiradjuri
Area (approx. 97,100 square kilometres (37,500 sq mi))
Bioregion:Central New South Wales
Location:Central New South Wales
Coordinates:33°50′S 147°30′E / 33.833°S 147.500°E / -33.833; 147.500[1]
RiversKalare (Lachlan), Wambuul Macquarie, Marrambidya (Murrumbidgee), Millewa (Murray)
Notable individuals
Windradyne, Linda Burney, Tai Tuivasa

The Wiradjuri people (Wiradjuri northern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjd̪uːraj]; Wiradjuri southern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjɟuːraj]) are a group of Aboriginal Australian people from central New South Wales, united by common descent through kinship and shared traditions. They survived as skilled hunter-fisher-gatherers, in family groups or clans, and many still use knowledge of hunting and gathering techniques as part of their customary life.

In the 21st century, major Wiradjuri groups live in Condobolin, Peak Hill, Narrandera and Griffith. There are significant populations at Wagga Wagga and Leeton and smaller groups at West Wyalong, Parkes, Dubbo, Forbes, Cootamundra, Darlington Point, Cowra and Young.


A Wiradjuri warrior, thought to be Windradyne[2]

The Wiradjuri autonym is derived from wiray, meaning "no" or "not", with the comitative suffix -dhuray or -dyuray meaning "having".[3] That the Wiradjuri said wiray, as opposed to some other word for "no", was seen as a distinctive feature of their speech, and several other tribes in New South Wales, to the west of the Great Dividing Range, are similarly named after their own words for "no".[4] A similar distinction was made between Romance languages in medieval France, with the langues d'oc and the langues d'oïl distinguished by their word for "yes".

In his book Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (1974), Norman Tindale wrote that Wiradjuri was one of several terms coined later, after the 1890s had seen a "rash of such terms", following the publication of a work by ethnologist John Fraser. In 1892, Fraser had published a revised and expanded edition[5] of Lancelot Threlkeld's 1834 work on the Awabakal language, An Australian Grammar,[6] in which he created his own names for groupings, such as Yunggai, Wachigari and Yakkajari.[5]

Tindale says that some of the later terms had entered the literature, although not based on fieldwork and lacking Aboriginal support, as artificial, collective names for his "Great Tribes" of New South Wales. He writes that there was such a "literary need for major groupings that [Fraser] set out to provide them for New South Wales, coining entirely artificial terms for his 'Great tribes'. These were not based on field research and lacked aboriginal support. His names such as Yunggai, Wachigari and Yakkajari can be ignored as artifacts...During the 1890s the idea spread and soon there was a rash of such terms...Some of these have entered, unfortunately, into popular literature, despite their dubious origins."[7]

He lists Wiradjuri (NSW) as one of these artificial names, along with Bangarang[a] (Pangerang) (Vic.); Booandik (Vic. & SA); Barkunjee (Barkindji) (NSW), Kurnai (Vic.), Thurrawal (Dharawal) (NSW), and Malegoondeet (?) (Vic.).[7][8] He also mentions R. H. Mathews, A. W. Howitt and John Mathew as promulgators of the "nations" concept. However, Tindale refers to Wiradjuri in his own work (p. 200): "Wiradjuri 'Wiradjuri (Wi'raduri)".[7][8]

Wiradjuri language

Main article: Wiradjuri language

Wiradjuri is a Pama–Nyungan family and classified as a member of the small Wiradhuric branch of Australian languages of Central New South Wales.[9]

The Wiradjuri language is effectively extinct, but attempts are underway to revive it, with a reconstructed grammar, based on earlier ethnographic materials and wordlists and the memories of Wiradjuri families, which is now used to teach the language in schools.[10] This reclamation work was originally propelled by elder Stan Grant and John Rudder who had previously studied Australian Aboriginal languages in Arnhem Land.[11][12]


The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They once occupied a vast area in central New South Wales, on the plains running north and south to the west of the Blue Mountains. The area was known as "the land of the three rivers",[13] the Wambuul (Macquarie), the Kalare later known as the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, or Murrumbidjeri.[14]

Norman Tindale estimated the territorial range of the Wiradjuri tribal lands at 127,000 km2 (49,000 sq mi). Their eastern borders ran from north to south from above Mudgee, down to the foothills of the Blue Mountains east of Lithgow and Oberon, and east of Cowra, Young and Tumut and south to the upper Murray at Albury and east to about Tumbarumba. The southern border ran to Howlong. Its western reaches went along Billabong Creek to beyond Mossgiel. They extended southwest to the vicinity of Hay and Narrandera. Condobolin southwards to Booligal, Carrathool, Wagga Wagga, Cootamundra, Parkes, Trundle; Gundagai, Boorowa, and Rylstone, Wellington, and Carcoar all lay within Wiradjuri territory.[1]

The Murray River forms the Wiradjuri's southern boundary and the change from woodland to open grassland marks their eastern boundary.[citation needed]

Social organisation

The Wiradjuri were organised into bands. Norman Tindale quotes Alfred William Howitt as mentioning several of these local groups of the tribe:

Burial rite

The Wiradjuri, together with the Gamilaraay (who however used them in bora ceremonies), were particularly known for their use of carved trees which functioned as taphoglyphs,[15] marking the burial site of a notable medicine-man, ceremonial leader, warrior or orator of a tribe. On the death of a distinguished Wiradjuri, initiated men would strip the bark off a tree to allow them to incise symbols on the side of the trunk which faced the burial mound. The craftsmanship on remaining examples of this funeral artwork displays notable artistic power. Four still stand near Molong at the Grave of Yuranigh.

They are generally to be found near rivers where the softer earth allowed easier burial.[16] Alfred William Howitt remarked that these trees incised with taphoglyphs served both as transit points to allow mythological cultural heroes to ascend to, and descend from, the firmament as well as a means for the deceased to return to the sky.[15]


The Wiradjuri diet included yabbies and fish such as Murray cod from the rivers. In dry seasons, they ate kangaroos, emus and food gathered from the land, including fruit, nuts, yam daisies (Microseris lanceolata), wattle seeds, and orchid tubers. The Wiradjuri travelled into Alpine areas in the summer to feast on Bogong moths.[17]

The Wiradjuri were also known for their handsome possum-skin cloaks stitched together from several possum furs. Governor Macquarie was presented with one of these cloaks by a Wiradjuri man when he visited Bathurst in 1815.[2]

British penetration

Wiradjuri territory was first penetrated by British colonists in 1813.[13] In 1822 George Suttor took up an extensive lot of land, later known as Brucedale Station, after Wiradjuri guides showed him an area with ample water sources. Suttor learnt their language, and befriended Windradyne, nicknamed "Saturday", and attributed conflict to the harshness of his own people's behaviour, since the Wiradjuri were in his view, fond of white people, as they would call them.[18] Clashes between the British settlers and the Wiradjuri however multiplied as the influx of colonist increased, and became known as the Bathurst Wars. The occupation of their lands and their cultivation began to cause famine among the Wiradjuri, who had a different notion of what constituted property.[b] In the 1850s there were still corroborees around Mudgee, but there were fewer clashes.

Notable people



Music/the arts


Rugby League

Australian rules football

Other sports

Places of significance

Wiradjuri culture in fiction

The short story Death in the Dawntime, originally published in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives (Mike Ashley, editor; 1995), is a murder mystery that takes place entirely among the Wiradjuri people before the arrival of Europeans in Australia.[40]

In Bryce Courtenay's novel Jessica, the plot is centred in Wiradjuri region. Jessica's best friend (Mary Simpson) was from Wiradjuri.[41]

Noel Beddoe's novel The Yalda Crossing[42] also explores Wiradjuri history from an early settler perspective, bringing to life a little-known massacre that occurred in the 1830s.[43] Andy Kissane's poem, "The Station Owner's Daughter, Narrandera" tells a story about the aftermath of that same massacre,[44] and was the inspiration for Alex Ryan's short film, Ngurrumbang.[45]

Alternative names

The variety of spellings for the name Wiradjuri is extensive, with over 60 ways of transcribing the word registered.[46]

Some words


  1. ^ R. H. Mathews' spelling
  2. ^ Suttor wrote: "These natives have some imperfect ideas of property, and the right of possession. They say all wild animals are theirs - the tame or cultivated ones are ours. Whatever springs spontaneously from the earth or without labour is theirs also. Things produced by art and labour, are the white fellows' as they call us." (Langton 2010, p. 37)


  1. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 201.
  2. ^ a b Langton 2010, p. 33.
  3. ^ Donaldson 1984, p. 26.
  4. ^ Thieberger & McGregor 1994, pp. 79–80.
  5. ^ a b Ridley et al. 1892, pp. ix–x, +.
  6. ^ Threlkeld et al. 2008.
  7. ^ a b c Tindale & Jones 1974, pp. 156, 191, 200.
  8. ^ a b Tindale 1974.
  9. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxiv.
  10. ^ McNaboe & Poetsch 2010, pp. 216–224.
  11. ^ Rudder & Grant 2005.
  12. ^ Rudder & Grant 2010.
  13. ^ a b Langton 2010, p. 32.
  14. ^ Bamblett 2013, p. 40.
  15. ^ a b McCarthy 1940, pp. 161–166.
  16. ^ McCarthy 1940, p. 161.
  17. ^ Warrant et al. 2016, p. 77.
  18. ^ Langton 2010, pp. 35–36.
  19. ^ Pearce 2016.
  20. ^ Innes 2016.
  21. ^ AoY.
  22. ^ "Addo-Carr on track for NRL debut". NRL.com. 19 February 2016. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "NRL 2020 Indigenous Player map" (PDF).
  24. ^ Indigenous Sport Month: Time for footy codes to create opportunity for Indigenous coaches by Jamie Pandaram and Lauren Wood for CodeSports 22 May 2023
  25. ^ "Addo-Carr, Hynes and Lee on Indigenous Round". Melbourne Storm. 30 July 2020. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  26. ^ Bruce, Jasper (23 April 2021). "Latrell 'a leader in fight against racism'". The Australian. Retrieved 6 May 2023.
  27. ^ "Remembering Ron Saddler: New South Wales' First Indigenous Captain". Sydney Roosters. 18 May 2023. Archived from the original on 25 July 2023. Retrieved 25 July 2023.
  28. ^ Rikki-Lee Arnold (18 May 2018). "Broncos young gun Kotoni Staggs to make NRL debut against Sydney Roosters". The Courier Mail. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  29. ^ https://deadlychoices.com.au/ambassadors/willies-deadly-choice-is-to-drink-plenty-of-water-and-stay-hydrated/ Willie Tonga: Former rugby league player. Retrieved: 2 Feb 2024
  30. ^ Helmers, Caden (7 February 2017). "Canberra Raiders prop Junior Paulo suspended from round one of the NRL season". The Canberra Times.
  31. ^ a b "AFLPA indigenous player map 2017" (PDF).
  32. ^ Shirkie, Daniel (16 April 2019). "'One of the best': Wellington boxing royalty Wally Carr passes away". Wellington Times. Retrieved 18 April 2019.
  33. ^ English, Peter (30 April 2010). "The man from Narrandera". CricInfo. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  34. ^ Dee Jefferson (4 September 2019). "Tennis champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley celebrated in new Australian play". ABC News.
  35. ^ Skene, Patrick (14 July 2016). "The forgotten story of ... John Kinsela, the first Aboriginal Olympic wrestler". The Guardian (Australia). Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  36. ^ Ali Almond (3 September 2022). "UFC 209: Tai Tuivasa's Samoan tattoo journey one of worst, and best, experiences of his life". ABC News.
  37. ^ GoNSW 1996a.
  38. ^ Office of Environment and Heritage.
  39. ^ a b GoNSW 1996b.
  40. ^ MacIntyre 2001, p. 139.
  41. ^ Courtenay 2000.
  42. ^ Beddoe 2012.
  43. ^ Wilson 2012.
  44. ^ Kissane 1999, pp. 42–43.
  45. ^ Ngurrumbang 2013.
  46. ^ Thieberger & McGregor 1994, p. 80.
  47. ^ Clarke 2008, p. 53.
  48. ^ Owen 2016.