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The Anēwan, also written Anaiwan and Anaywan, are an Aboriginal Australian people whose traditional territory spans the Northern Tablelands in New South Wales.


The Anēwan language, also known as Nganyaywana, has been classified by Robert M. W. Dixon as belonging to the Djan-gadi/Nganjaywana subgroup of Central New South Wales, and was one of three varieties of the group, the other dialects being Himberrong and Inuwon.[1] For a long time Anēwan was regarded, like Mbabaram, as a linguistic isolate, ostensibly failing to fit into the known Australian patterns of language, since the material in word-lists taken down of its vocabulary appeared to lack cognates in contiguous languages such as Gamilaraay. The status of its seeming irregularity was solved in 1976 by Terry Crowley who showed that the differences were caused by initial consonant loss which, once accounted for, yielded up over 100 cognate terms between Anēwan and other languages and dialects of the region.[2][3] One of the peculiarities generated by this phenomenon of initial loss was that many homophones were created between originally distinct words, so that in Anēwan the word for goanna and bull ant became identical (janda).[3]


According to Norman Tindale, the Anēwan's traditional lands measured some 3,200 square miles (8,300 km2), spreading over the New England tableland from Moree, Guyra and Ben Lomond south to Uralla, Walcha, and the Moonbi Range. Northwest their borders ran to Tingha, and encompassed also Bendemeer and Armidale.[4] Neighbouring tribes were the Baanbay (Gumbaynggir) to their east;[a] the Djangadi to the south-east, the Yugambal (Jukambal) and Ngarabal to their north, and the Gamilaraay to the west.[5]

Social structure[edit]

The Anēwan consisted of several clans, one of which was the Himberrong horde. Their section names were:

  • Irong feminine Arkan
  • Arpong feminine Iran
  • Iyong feminine Patjang
  • Imbong feminine Irakena.

The Irong intermarried with the Iyong, and the Arpong with the Imbong.[6]


By the time R. H. Mathews began to record elements of the Anēwan language in 1903, remnants of the original tribe had been widely dispersed over New England.[7] Those who remained in Armidale lived on a site on the town fringes known as "The Dump", in humpies built close to the rubbish tip, which were devoid of the basic amenities of water, sewerage and electricity, and jerry-rigged by using hessian bags, corrugated sheet iron and cardboard boxes. In 1960, four children died and 11 were hospitalised from infections picked up in conditions that were called "appalling". The government then allocated funds to clean up the area and built cottages in fibro cement for its residents. Eventually, these were replaced by brick units in a settlement which the local Aboriginal community named Narwan.[8]

Some words[edit]

  • dunya (penis)[3]
  • gyaya (food)[2]
  • ilgaiwa (summer)[9]
  • jarrwanba (winter)[9]
  • mbunya (mbanyja) (kangaroo)[2][10]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ Hoddinott showed that the Baanbay language described as a spoken by a distinct group was simply a minor variant of Gumbaynggirr (Hoddinott 1967, pp. 56–60)


  1. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxiv.
  2. ^ a b c Dixon 1980, pp. 196–197.
  3. ^ a b c Reid 2009, p. 244.
  4. ^ Tindale 1974.
  5. ^ McDonald 1996, p. 181.
  6. ^ Radcliffe-Brown 1930, p. 234.
  7. ^ Mathews 1903, p. 251.
  8. ^ Woolmington 1991, pp. 25–37.
  9. ^ a b Reid 2009, p. 247.
  10. ^ Reid 2009, p. 253.