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Wangai, otherwise written Wongi, is a term referring to the collective identity of a regional group of tribes in the Eastern Goldfields region of Western Australia.


The term wangai/wongi derives from a verbal root meaning 'to speak'.[a]

The more formal term is Wongatha.[2]


The Wongi tribal peoples lived in the territory that extended from the coastal area of the Southern Ocean, at Esperance north as far as the Warburton Ranges, and thus is inclusive of biogeographic areas of Coolgardie, South-East Wiluna and the Western half of the Great Victoria Desert.[2]


The Wongi are culturally diverse, consisting of groups that speak or descend from speakers of any of the languages belonging to the dialect continuum of the Wati languages. For example, the Ngaanyatjarra, just one component of the Wongi, are themselves formed from at least people came from eleven distinct tribes.[3]

Native title claims[edit]

After a 3-week stay in 1930 at Mount Margaret Mission, near Laverton, during which he met relatively few indigenous peoples, the man who was to become the doyen of Australian aboriginal studies, A. P. Elkin wrote out his impression that the native tribes indigenous to this area had become extinct, and those then present had arrived there relatively recently after migrating from the Warburrton Ranges. This obscure item came to light with the passing of the Native Title Acts in the 1990s, when the Wongatha made a claim for extensive rights to land from Mt Margaret eastwards. [4]

The Wongi Wongatha-Wonganarra Aboriginal Corporation (WWAC) was put into liquidation in 2010.[5]

Today their Native Title land rights interests are represented by the Goldfields Aboriginal Land and Sea Council Corporation.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The early ethnographer R. H. Mathews, reported that the Loritja verb for 'to speak' was wonkanye, while that of the tribe around Erlistoun, the traditional area of the Pini, was wongi.[1]


  1. ^ Mathews 1907, p. 368.
  2. ^ a b Bedells 2010, p. 1.
  3. ^ Bedells 2010, p. 12.
  4. ^ Muller 2004, p. 59.
  5. ^ ASIC 2016.
  6. ^ GLSC 2016.