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Awabakal people
aka: Awabagal, Awaba, Kuri, and Ninyowa (Tindale)[1]
IBRA 6.1 Sydney Basin.png
Mid North Coast bioregion
Language family: Pama–Nyungan[3]
Language branch: Yuin–Kuric
Language group: Kuri
Group dialects: Awabakal[3]
Area (approx. 1,800 sq. km)
Bioregion: Mid North Coast
Location: Mid North Coast, New South Wales
Coordinates: 33°5′S 151°30′E / 33.083°S 151.500°E / -33.083; 151.500Coordinates: 33°5′S 151°30′E / 33.083°S 151.500°E / -33.083; 151.500[1]
Other geological: Lake Macquarie[1]
Notable individuals

The Awabakal people /əˈwɒbəɡæl/, a group of indigenous people of Australia, are those Aboriginal Australians that were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans scattered along the coastal area of what is now known as the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. Their traditional territory spreads from Wollombi in the south, to the Lower Hunter River near Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in the north.

In the traditional language, Awaba is the word for Lake Macquarie, meaning flat or plain surface; hence, Awabakal was used to describe people of the area. The Awabakal were bounded to the north–west by the Wonnarua, the Worimi to the north–east, and the Darkinjung peoples to the west and south. The Awabakal people, like most of the Aboriginal Australian tribes in Australia, still live in their native homelands.

Alternate names[edit]

Awabagal is a common alternate name for the Awabakal people. Awaba is now the name of a small town in the region.


Tindale claims that the Ninyowa clan were from the Newcastle area.[1]


Traditional lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes around Newcastle, New South Wales.[4]

The Awabakal language was used by the Awabakal people and also by the Wonnarua people. Oral historians and linguists are reviewing the language in order to develop a comprehensive dictionary of the language of the Hunter River and Lake Macquarie regions.[3]


The eaglehawk or wedge-tailed eagle has special significance for the Awabakal people. Koun, their "celestial entity", looks like an Aboriginal man, but in flight resembles an eagle-hawk.[5]

The Awabakal people played a significant part in shaping the environment of their region. They practised fire-stick farming extensively, which helped them to hunt and to navigate through dense prickly scrub along the coast.[5] Tracks and paths were also maintained, including a path from the shore to the top of a hill which later became Watt Street in Newcastle, New South Wales.[6] Fishing, particularly for shellfish, was a significant part of the Awabakal people's diet and culture pre-colonisation.[5]

The Awabakal, in pre-colonisation times, were noted as being strong and determined defenders of their territory, the means by which the defence occurred need to be explored to deepen understanding of the culture. They had possession of their rich coastal territory for thousands of years, during which time they successfully repelled incursions by the neighbouring Gamilaraay people and established places of defence, "virtual armouries", high in the Watagan Mountains.[5] Academic research by Webb[7] indicates east coast Australia tribes were violent, in particular evidence shows women suffered from a disproportionate amount of death through tribal violence.


The Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Cooperative Limited is a not-for-profit community controlled organisation operating in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter Region with 195 members.[8] It was established in 1976. It is responsible for the delivery of community and health services to Aboriginal people in this region, including:

  • the Awabakal Medical Centre;
  • the Awabakal Disability Service which provides "short to medium term support to young people living with a disability";
  • culturally appropriate care for older people;
  • and child care services.[9]


In 2014 financial year, Awabakal had income of $10.7million, an approx 20% increase on income from 2013. Total assets for both 2013 and 2014 were ca. $13million.[8]


Also in 1976, the Awabakal Environmental Education Centre began operating. It is a NSW Department of Education and Communities facility. The centre provides opportunities for teachers and students in the Hunter Region to learn about the environment and human interactions with the natural world.[10] The Centre contains examples of diverse habitats including "perched lagoons, creek catchments, dry and wet sclerophyll forest and remnants of rainforest". Being located on Awabakal land, the centre also provides the opportunity for students to learn about Aboriginal perspectives, issues, knowledge and history as a cross curriculum issue.[11]

There is also a significant Awabakal presence at the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle, Australia. "Wollotuka" is an Awabakal word meaning "eating and meeting place".[12]

Native title[edit]

Attempts by the Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council to claim native title over land within Newcastle, pursuant to Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) s 190A have been dismissed in the Federal Court.[13]

Notable Awabakal people[edit]

  • Biraban – a recognised headman of the Awaba clan[5] who assisted the Rev Lancelot Threlkeld compile the first grammar of an Aboriginal language in Australia.[14]
  • Gorman (Bo-win-bah)
  • Coleman (Kua-mun) of the Pambalong
  • Boatman of the Pambalong
  • Wallungull of the Ash Island Clan
  • Cobbawn Wogi of the Ash Island clan
  • Ben of the Kurnurngbong
  • Cobbera of the Tumpoeahba or Sugarloaf clan
  • Desmond of the Newcastle clan[5]
  • Aunty Sandra Griffin, Elder in Residence at the Wollotuka Institute[15]
  • Bill Fisher, Chairperson of the Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Co-operative and staff member at the Wollotuka Institute[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Tindale, Norman (1974). "Awabakal (NSW)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (online extract). South Australian Museum. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Dousset, Laurent (2005). "Awabakal". AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database. Archived from the original on 7 July 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Lissarrague, Amanda (2006). "A salvage grammar and wordlist of the language from the Hunter River and Lake Macquarie" (PDF). Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Cooperative. ISBN 0-9775351-0-X. 
  4. ^ This map is indicative only.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Maynard, John. "Whose Traditional Land?" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Duncan, Carol. "Newcastle's First Street to be Illuminated". Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-15. 
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "About us". Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Cooperative Limited. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "Awabakal Environmental Education Centre". Archived from the original on 16 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Awabakal EEC - About Us". Archived from the original on 5 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  12. ^ "The Wollotuka Institute". Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  13. ^ Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council v NSW Native Title Services Ltd, National Native Title Tribunal (FCA NSD23/2005 6 December 2005) (“Native title does not exist”).
  14. ^ Di Gravio, Gionni (18 February 2008). "Virtual Sourcebook for Aboriginal Studies in the Hunter Region". Cultural Collections. Australia: University of Newcastle. Retrieved 13 May 2012. 
  15. ^ "Listening With Respect". Archived from the original on 28 February 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "Our Board". Retrieved 23 February 2014. 

External links[edit]