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Awabakal people
aka: Awabagal, Awaba, Kuri, Minyowa, Minyowie [1]
IBRA 6.1 Sydney Basin.png
Mid North Coast bioregion
Language family:Pama–Nyungan[2]
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:Kuri
Group dialects:Awabakal
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/, are those Aboriginal Australians who identify with or are descended from the Awabakal tribe and its clans, Indigenous to the coastal area of what is now known as the Mid North Coast region of New South Wales. Their traditional territory spread from Wollombi in the south, to the Lower Hunter River near Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in the north.

The name Kuringgai, also written Guringai, has often been used as a collective denominator of the Awabakal and several other tribes in this belt, but Norman Tindale has challenged it as an arbitrary coinage devised by ethnologist John Fraser in 1892. For Tindale, Kuringgai was synonymous with Awabakal.[1] Arthur Capell however asserted that there was indeed evidence for a distinct Kuringgai language, which, in Tindale's schema, would imply they were a distinct people from the Awabakal.[3]


In their language, awaba was the word for Lake Macquarie, meaning flat or plain surface, and by extension referred to the people native to that area. The Awabakal were bounded to the north–west by the Wonnarua, the Worimi to the north–east, and the Darkinung peoples to the west and south. Awaba is now the name of a small town in the region.


Traditional lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes around Newcastle, New South Wales

Awabagal belongs to the larger Awabagal/Gadjang subgroup, also called Worimi[4] of the Pama-Nyungan languages According to Robert M. W. Dixon, it had two dialects, each spoken by the contiguous Wonnarua and Cameeragal.[5] Attempts are now underway to revive the language by people of a variety of aboriginal origins who identify it with the landscape where they now live.[6]


Tindale estimated Awabakal territory to cover some 700 square miles (1,800 km2).[1]


The eaglehawk or wedge-tailed eagle has special significance for the Awabakal people. Kon, their "celestial entity", looks like an Aboriginal man, but in flight resembles an eagle-hawk.[7][8]

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.[8] Newcastle's main city thoroughfare, Watt Street was built over an Awabakal path from the shore to the top of a hill.[9] Fishing, particularly for shellfish, was a significant part of the Awabakal people's diet and culture pre-colonisation.[8]

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.[8]


The Awabakal Newcastle Aboriginal Cooperative Limited is a not-for-profit community controlled organisation operating in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Hunter Region. 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.[10]


The Awabakal Environmental Education Centre began operating in 1976. It is an 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.[11] Wollotuka, meaning an 'eating and meeting place' originally began as a support programme in 1983 to assist and promote university studies for indigenous people. Wollotuka's all indigenous staff moved into their new building, Birabahn in 2002, and the Wollotuka Institute was officially established in 2009.[12][13]

Native title[edit]

In 2013 an association of Awabakal and Guringai descendants laid claim to native title over land from Maitland to Hornsby.[14] The claim was opposed by representatives of the Worimi and Wonnarua as asserting rights over their own traditional territories.[15] In 2017 the claim was withdrawn after the NSW government determined that, while the claim group had shown descent from the original people indigenous to the area, they had failed to demonstrate continuous preservation of customary laws and practices since the onset of white colonization.[16]

Notable Awabakal people[edit]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Awaba (Awabakal toponym designating Lake Macquarie)
  • Awabagal
  • Kuri (generic term ("man") in Sydney area languages).
  • Kuringgai
  • "Lake Macquarie, Newcastle" tribe
  • Minyowa (Awabakal horde at Newcastle)
  • Minyowie

Source: Tindale 1974, p. 191

See also[edit]




External links[edit]