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This article is for the Australian Indigenous group. For their language see Warumungu language. For the Australian navy ships named for them, see HMAS Warramunga.
A Warumungu man

The Warumungu (or Warramunga) are a group of Indigenous Australians, many of whom speak Kriol or the Pama–Nyungan language of Warumungu.[1][2][3] They inhabit the region of Tennant Creek and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia as well as small towns to the South.[1][4]


In the 1870s, early white explorers described the Warumungu as a flourishing nation.[5] However, by 1915, invasion and reprisal had brought them to the brink of starvation.[5][6] In 1934, a reserve that had been set aside for the Warumungu in 1892 was revoked in order to clear the way for gold prospecting. By the 1960s, the Warumungu had been entirely removed from their native land.[5] In 1978, the Central Land Council of the Northern Territory made a claim on behalf of the Warumungu under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. A lengthy legal battle ensued, in which the litigations eventually went to the High Court of Australia. 15 years later, in 1993, most of the land claim was finally returned to the Warumungu.[5] The Warumungu Land Claim is currently made up of ten separate parcels of land, which together makes up 3,090 square kilometres.[7] In March 1993, Michael Maurice, a former Aboriginal Land Commissioner, said of the ordeal:

Warumungu language[edit]

Many Warumungu people continue to speak the Warumungu language (ISO 639-3: wrm[8][9]). The Warumungu language is a Pama–Nyungan language similar to the Warlpiri language spoken by the Warlpiri people. It is a suffixing language, in which verbs are formed by adding a tense suffix (although some verbs are formed by compounding a preverb).[6] As are many of the surviving Indigenous Australian languages, the Warumungu language is undergoing rapid change. The morphology used by younger speakers differs significantly than the one used by older speakers.[6] An example of a Warumungu sentence might be "apurtu im deya o warraku taun kana", meaning "Father's mother, is she there, in town, or not?".[10]

Warumungu is classified as a living language,[11] but its number of speakers seemed to be decreasing quickly. In the mid-1950s, Australian surveyor Robert Hoogenraad estimated that there were only about 700 people who could speak some Warumungu;[4] by 1983, the population was estimated to be as small as 200 speakers.[12] Today, the language is in a robust position compared to many indigenous Australian languages, as it is being acquired by children and used in daily interaction by all generations, and the situation is sustainable though some ethnic group members may prefer Kriol.


  1. ^ a b Warumungu: A language of Australia Retrieved 22 December 2008
  2. ^ Linguistic Lineage for Warumungu Retrieved 22 December 2008
  3. ^ Metcalf and Huntington, Celebrations of Death: The Anthropology of Mortuary Ritual p. 49
  4. ^ a b Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project: Warumungu Retrieved 22 December 2008
  5. ^ a b c d e The Warumungu: The Land is Always Alive Retrieved 23 December 2008 Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c Blackwell-Reference Online: Warumungu (Australian: Pama–Nyungan) Retrieved 23 December 2008
  7. ^ Warumungu land title grant Retrieved 23 December 2008 Archived 8 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Warumungu Language Information Retrieved 23 December 2008
  9. ^ Warumungu language code Retrieved 23 December 2008[dead link]
  10. ^ Scholar Septic: Australian Aboriginal Studies Retrieved 23 December 2008
  11. ^ "The Warumungu Language". LINGUIST List. Retrieved 24 December 2008. 
  12. ^ "Ethnologue report for language code:wrm." in Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International.