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Ngarigo people
aka: Ngarigo, Bombala tribe, Menero tribe, and Cooma tribe[1]
IBRA 6.1 Australian Alps.png
Language family:Pama–Nyungan
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:Yora
Group dialects:Ngarigu
Location:Monaro and Australian Alpine regions of New South Wales and Victoria
Urban areas

The Ngarigo (also named Garego, Ngarego, Ngarago, Ngaragu, Ngarigu, Ngarrugu or Ngarroogoo) are an indigenous Australian people of southeast New South Wales, whose lands also extended around the present border with Victoria.


Ngarigu is classified by Robert M. W. Dixon as one of two languages of the Southern New South Wales Group, the other being Ngunawal/Gundungurra.[2] It was spoken in the area of Tumut by the Walgalu, in the Canberra-Queanbeyan-Upper Murrumbidgee region by people variously called the Nyamudy, the Namwich or the Yammoitmithang, and also as far south as Victoria's Omeo district.[3] The heartland of Ngarigo speakers, in a more restricted sense, was Monaro.[3]

John Lhotsky, Charles du Vé, John Bulmer[a] and George Augustus Robinson, Alfred W. Howitt and R. H. Mathews took down early wordlists of the language, while Luise Hercus managed to recover many terms conserved by descendants living in Orbost, in 1963.[5]


According to Norman Tindale, following R. H. Mathews,[6] the specific areas lands of the Ngarigo covered some 6,000 square miles (16,000 km2), centering on the Monaro tableland. The northern limits lay around Queanbeyan. It took in the Bombala River area, and ran south to the vicinity of Delegate and eastwards to Nimmitabel. Their western reaches extended to the Great Dividing Range of the Australian Alps.[1]

Socio-economic organization[edit]

The Ngarigo clan and marriage structure consisted of a dual class system with matrilineal descent.[7]

The Ngarigo would contact, via notched mnemonic sticks born by messengers, other tribes such as the Walgalu and Ngunawal in order to arrange for all to meet up in the Bogong Mountains for the annual feasting off the Bogong moth colonies.[8] Corroborees, together with initiation ceremonies at a Bora ring were also held, and while in the hills, the Ngarigo and other tribes culled plants like mountain celery and alpine baeckea(Baeckea gunniana) for medicinal ends, preparing the former as a paste for problems in the urinary tract, the latter as a sedative and cough medicine.[9]

Post-contact history[edit]

With their hunting areas being taken over by European settlers running sheep, many native people took on occasional labour on pastoral runs, but the overall population of the Canberra area suffered a drastic reduction as diseases introduced by the Europeans, such as smallpox, syphilis, influenza, measles and tuberculosis began to take their toll, so that the demise of the tribes was virtually completed within three generations.[10]

Dispute over the traditional ownership of the Canberra area[edit]

Several tribes have been historically associated with the area around Canberra, with conflicting claims arising also from considerations of native title rights among those who descend from the original aboriginal peoples of the region. Descendants of the Ngarigo, Ngunawal and Walgalu have vied to assert primacy.

In 2013, an ACT Government anthropological report was released concluding that the struggle between various indigenous groups for the mantle of Canberra's "first people" is likely to remain uncertain. The report concluded that evidence gathered from the mid-1700s onward was too scant to support any family's claims.[11]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Currak-da-bidgee
  • Ngaryo. (common typo)
  • Murring. ("men")
  • Bemeringal ("mountain men", of the coastal tribes
  • Guramal, Nguramal, Gurmal
  • Bradjerak/Brajeraq. (bara, "man,"+ djerak, "savage/angry")
  • Bombala tribe
  • Menero tribe
  • Cooma tribe[1]


  1. ^ Bulmer's list should be read with care, given Koch's note that:"15 of the items (from 'canoe' to 'wind') are matched with what should be the gloss of the next word on the list.Thus mamat 'canoe' should rather be glossed 'sun', the next word in the list, which other sources establish as /mamady/. "[4]


  1. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 198.
  2. ^ Dixon 2002, p. xxxv.
  3. ^ a b Koch 2016, p. 145.
  4. ^ Koch 2016, p. 146.
  5. ^ Koch 2016, pp. 145–147.
  6. ^ Mathews 1908, p. 335.
  7. ^ Flood 2000, p. 123.
  8. ^ Slattery 2015, p. 121.
  9. ^ Slattery 2015, p. 128.
  10. ^ Gillespie 1991, p. 217.
  11. ^ Towell 2013.