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The Burarra, also referred to as the Gidjingali, are an indigenous Australian people in and around Maningrida in the Northern Territory. Opinions have differed as to whether the two names represent different tribal realities, with the Gidjingali treated as the same as, or as a subgroup of the Burarra, or as an independent tribal grouping.


The ethnonym Burarra means 'those people'.[1] Norman Tindale classified the Gidjingali as being eastern Burarra, speaking a dialect only slightly different from Burarra.[2] Les Hiatt argued in 1965 that they were a distinct tribe.[1] Others take Hiatt's Gidjingali to be essentially synonymous with Burarra,[3] and the words are used now interchangeably.[4] Tindale considered Burarra to be an exonym applied to them by outsiders, and speculated that their 'real' name might be Ngapanga.[1]


Burarra is a prefixing Arnhem land language belonging to the Maningrida family of non-Pama-Nyungan languages.[5]


Burarra traditional land covers some 200 square miles (520 km2) on both banks of the Blyth River, for a distance of roughly 20 miles inland. Their eastward extension runs as far as and east to Cape Stewart.[1] Facing the Arafura Sea, their territory also extends to some islands,[a] opposite those of their northern maritime neighbours, the Yan-nhaŋu of the Crocodile Islands. Despite speaking markedly different languages, -one prefixing, the other suffixing- the Burarra and the Yan-nhaŋu have strong sociocultural links.[6]

Social organization[edit]

Though neighbours of such Yolgnu peoples as the Djinang and the Rembarrnga, Burarra marriage practices as markedly at odds with those of the Yolgnu. Ian Keen has argued that there are five major differences:(a) Yolgnu men are more polygamous than their Burarra peers; (b) while the Yolgnu having a Karadjeri system of kin classification, the Burarra's resembles that of the Aranda. (c) the rules governing spousal choice are at odds, as are their respective expectations about how flexible older men should be in ceding rights over women to younger men; (d) Etate-owner[clarification needed] groups are structured somewhat differently. (e) Whereas for the Burarra the named community forms the basic unit for certain types of political action, the Yolgnu organize such activities on a clan basis (occasionally with another clan).[7]

Clans and Moieties[edit]

The Burarra, according to Tindale, consist of five subgroups:

  • 1. Anbara. (western bank of the mouth of the Blyth River).
  • 2. Marawuraba. (from the coast to the east of Blyth River)
  • 3. Madia. (Cape Stewart area)
  • 4. Maringa..
  • 5. Gunadba. (Gunaidbe)[1]

Each of the five have a Yirritja/Dua moiety division.[1]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Barera.
  • Baurera.
  • Burera.
  • Burara.
  • Burada.
  • Burarra.
  • Gidjingali.[8]

Modern period[edit]

Questacon, Australia's National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra, has produced a traditional indigenous technology website in conjunction with the Burarra people, called Burarra Gathering[9]

Some words[edit]

  • gurakadj. (shame/fear).[10]


  1. ^ This was formerly denied by Tindale, who wrote:'They did not possess coastal resources.'[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Tindale 1974, p. 221.
  2. ^ Tindale 1974, pp. 221–222.
  3. ^ Bagshaw 2014, p. 248, n.4.
  4. ^ Keen 1982, p. 661.
  5. ^ Bagshaw 2014, pp. 247–248.
  6. ^ Bagshaw 2014, pp. 248–249.
  7. ^ Keen 1982, p. 660.
  8. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 222.
  9. ^ Burarra 2017.
  10. ^ Wierzbicka 1999, p. 290.


External links[edit]