Barngarla people

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The Barngarla, formerly known as Parnkalla and also known as Pangkala, are an Aboriginal people of the Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Port Augusta areas. The Barngarla are the traditional owners of much of Eyre Peninsula, South Australia.[1][2]


Barngarla died out in the 1960s.[3]

Israeli linguist Professor Ghil'ad Zuckermann contacted the Barngarla community in 2011 proposing to revive it, the project of reclamation being accepted enthusiastically by people of Barngarla descent. Workshops to this end were started in Port Lincoln, Whyalla and Port Augusta in 2012.[4] The reclamation is based on 170-year-old documents.[5]


In Tindale's estimation, the Barngarla's traditional lands covered some 17,500 square miles (45,000 km2), around the eastern side of Lake Torrens south of Edeowie and west of Hookina and Port Augusta. The western reaches extended as far as Island Lagoon and Yardea. Woorakimba, Hesso, Yudnapinna, and the Gawler Ranges are formed part of Barngarla lands. The southern frontier lay Kimba, Darke Peak, Cleve, and Franklin Harbour.[6]

Social organisation[edit]

The Barngarla had two tribal divisions: the northern Wartabanggala ranged from north of Port Augusta to Ogden Hill and the vicinity of Quorn and Beltana; a southern branch, the Malkaripangala, lived down the western side of the Spencer Gulf.[6] Referred to as Pangkala, the Barngala have also been included in the grouping currently known as the Adnyamathanha people.[7]

In 1844 the missionary C. W. Schürmann stated that the Barngarla were divided into two classes, the Mattiri and Karraru.[8] This was criticized by the ethnographer R. H. Mathews, who, surveying South Australian tribes, argued that Schürmann had mixed them up, and that the proper divisions, which he called phratries shared by all these tribes was as follows:[9]

Phratry Husband Wife Offspring
A Kirrarroo Matturri Matturri
B Matturri Kirraroo Kirraroo

The Barngarla practised both circumcision and subincision.[6]


A practice known as "singing to the sharks" was an important ritual in Barngarla culture, a technique that expired when its last traditional practitioner died in the 1960s. The performance consisted of men lining the cliffs of bays in the Eyre peninsula and singing out, while their chants were accompanied by women dancing on the beach. The aim was to enlist sharks and dolphins in driving shoals of fish towards the shore where fishers in the shallows could make their catch.[3]

History of contact[edit]

Even before British colonisation, the Barngarla were under pressure from the Kokatha, who were on the move southwards, forcing the Barngarla to retreat from their traditional northern boundaries. One effect was to cut off their access to certain woods used in spear-making, so that they finally had to forage as far as Tumby Bay to get supplies of whipstick mallee ash.[6]

Barngarla native title[edit]

On 22 January 2015 the Barngarla people were granted native title over much of Eyre Peninsula. They had applied for 44,500 square kilometres (11,000,000 acres) and received most of it.[b][10]

On 24 September 2021 they were granted native title over the city of Port Augusta, after a protracted 25-year old battle. Justice Natalie Charlesworth presided over the sitting.[11]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Arkaba-tura (men of Arkaba, a toponym
  • Bangala, Bungela
  • Banggala, Bahngala
  • Bungeha
  • Jadliaura people
  • Kooapidna[6]
  • Kooapudna (Franklin Harbour horde)
  • Kortabina (toponym)[12]
  • Pamkala
  • Pankalla, Parnkalla, Parn-kal-la, Pankarla
  • Punkalla
  • Punkirla
  • Wanbirujurari ("men of the seacoast", northern tribal term for southern hordes)
  • Willara
  • Willeuroo[13] ("west"/ "westerner")

Some words[edit]

  • babi "father"
  • gadalyili, goonya, walgara "shark"[c]
  • goordnidi "native dog"
  • ngami "mother"
  • wilga "domesticated dog"

Barngarla has four grammatical numbers: singular, dual, plural and superplural.[14]: 227–228  For instance:

  • wárraidya "emu" (singular)
  • wárraidyailyarranha "a lot of emus", "heaps of emus" (superplural)[14]: 228 
  • wárraidyalbili "two emus" (dual)
  • wárraidyarri "emus" (plural)


  1. ^ Tribal boundaries, after Tindale (1974), adapted from Hercus (1999).
  2. ^ Judge Mansfield wrote:'The fact that Barngarla language is now being relearnt by some claimants, due to the work of Adelaide University academic Ghil'ad Zuckermann, is not evidence of continuity of the Barngarla language, although it is evidence of continuity of a notion of Barngarla identity, a notion that clearly existed amongst the Barngarla community at 1846, when Barngarla people told Schürmann of the "Barngarla matta", and which can thus be inferred to have existed at sovereignty.' (Mansfield 2015)
  3. ^ These three distinct terms for the one species are thought to have designated nuances whose differential meanings are no longer known (Goldsworthy 2014).


  1. ^ Howitt 1904, p. ?.
  2. ^ Prichard 1847, p. 79.
  3. ^ a b Goldsworthy 2014.
  4. ^ Atkinson 2013.
  5. ^ Anderson 2012.
  6. ^ a b c d e Tindale 1974, p. 216.
  7. ^ Nepabunna.
  8. ^ Mathews 1900, p. 79.
  9. ^ Mathews 1900, p. 82.
  10. ^ Gage & Whiting 2015.
  11. ^ Roberts & Gooch 2021.
  12. ^ Green 1886, p. 126.
  13. ^ Bryant 1879, p. 103.
  14. ^ a b Zuckermann, Ghil'ad 2020, Revivalistics: From the Genesis of Israeli to Language Reclamation in Australia and Beyond, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199812790 / ISBN 9780199812776


External links[edit]