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This article is about the Indigenous Australian people. For the place, see Wiradjuri, New South Wales.
Wiradjuri people
aka: Waradgeri, Warandgeri, Waradajhi, Werogery, Wiiratheri, Wira-Athoree, Wiradjuri, Wiradhuri, Wiradhurri, Wiraduri, Wiradyuri, Wiraiarai, Wiraidyuri, Wirajeree, Wirashuri, Wiratheri, Wirracharee, Wirrai'yarrai, Wirrathuri, Wooragurie(Tindale)[1]
Language family: Pama–Nyungan
Language branch: Yuin–Kuric
Language group: Wiradhuric
Group dialects: Wiradjuri
Area (approx. 97,100 sq. km)
Bioregion: Central New South Wales
Location: Central New South Wales
Coordinates: 33°50′S 147°30′E / 33.833°S 147.500°E / -33.833; 147.500Coordinates: 33°50′S 147°30′E / 33.833°S 147.500°E / -33.833; 147.500[1]
Rivers Lachlan (Kalare), Macquarie (Wambool)
Notable individuals
Windradyne, Linda Burney

The Wiradjuri people (Wiradjuri northern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjd̪uːraj]) or Wirraayjuurray people (Wiradjuri southern dialect pronunciation [wiraːjɟuːraj]) are a group of indigenous Australian Aboriginal people that were united by a common language, strong ties of kinship and survived as skilled hunter–fisher–gatherers in family groups or clans scattered throughout central New South Wales.

In the 21st century, major Wiradjuri groups live in Condobolin, Peak Hill, Narrandera and Griffith. There are significant populations at Wagga Wagga and Leeton and smaller groups at West Wyalong, Parkes, Dubbo, Forbes, Cootamundra, Cowra and Young.


A Wiradjuri warrior, thought to be Windradyne

The Wiradjuri name for themselves is Wirraaydhuurray (northern dialect; pronounced [wiraːjd̪uːraj]) or Wirraayjuurray (southern dialect; [wiraːjɟuːraj]). This is derived from wirraay, meaning "no" or "not", with the suffix -dhuurray or -juuray meaning "having". That the Wiradjuri said wirraay, as opposed to some other word for "no", was seen as a distinctive feature of their speech, and several other tribes in New South Wales, to the west of the Great Dividing Range, are similarly named after their own words for "no".[3]

Attempts to reproduce the name in writing cover more than 60 different ways, including Waradgeri, Warandgeri, Waradajhi, Werogery, Wiiratheri, Wira-Athoree, Wiradjuri, Wiradhuri, Wiradhurri, Wiraduri, Wiradyuri, Wiraiarai, Wiraidyuri, Wirajeree, Wirashuri, Wiratheri, Wirracharee, Wirrai'yarrai, Wirrathuri, Wooragurie.


The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They occupy a large area in central New South Wales, from the Blue Mountains in the east, to Hay in the west, north to Nyngan and south to Albury: the South Western slopes region.[1]

The Wiradjuri tribal area has been described as "the land of the three rivers, the Wambool later known as the Macquarie, the Kalare later known as the Lachlan and the Murrumbidgee, or Murrumbidjeri. The Murray River forms the Wiradjuri's southern boundary, the change from woodland to open grassland form their eastern boundary."[4]

Occupation of the land by the Wiradjuri can be seen by carved trees and campsite remainders. Carved trees are more commonly found around the Macquarie and Lachlan rivers in the north rather than the Murrumbidgee in the south. Campsites, which indicate regular seasonal occupation by small groups, have been found on river flats, open land and by rivers.

Norman Tindale quotes Alfred Howitt as mentioning several of these local groups of the tribe, for example, the Narrandera (prickly lizard), Cootamundra (Kuta-mundra) from kutamun turtle, Murranbulla or Murring-bulle (maring-bula, two bark canoes). There were differences in dialect in some areas, including around Bathurst and near Albury. The Wiradjuri are identified as a coherent group as they maintained a cycle of ceremonies that moved in a ring around the whole tribal area. This cycle led to tribal coherence despite the large occupied area.


The Wiradjuri diet included yabbies and fish such as Murray cod from the rivers. In dry seasons, they ate kangaroos, emus and food gathered from the land, including fruit, nuts, yam daisies (Microseris lanceolata), wattle seeds, and orchid tubers. The Wiradjuri travelled into Alpine areas in the summer to feast on Bogong moths.

The Wiradjuri were also known for their handsome possum-skin cloaks stitched together from several possum furs. Governor Macquarie was presented with one of these cloaks by a Wiradjuri man when he visited Bathurst in 1815.

Wiradjuri language[edit]

Main article: Wiradjuri language

The Wiradjuri language had effectively died out of everyday spoken use, but has recently been reclaimed from early European anthropologists' records and from words contributed by several Wiradjuri families,[5] by elder Stan Grant, a member of the Wiradjuri Elder's Council, and John Rudder Ph.D., who has previously studied Australian Aboriginal languages in Arnhem Land. It is a member of the small Wiradhuric branch of the Pama–Nyungan family. It is now taught in some primary schools[6] and can be studied at TAFE. One student says "I love singing the songs like 'Heads, shoulders, knees and toes' in Wiradjuri". The copyright for A First Wiradjuri Dictionary is held by the Wiradjuri Council of Elders.

The name of the town of Wagga Wagga comes from the Wiradjuri word wagga, meaning "crow"; to create the plural, the Wiradjuri repeat the word. Thus, the name translates as "the place of many crows".

European settlement[edit]

Clashes between European settlers and the Aboriginal Peoples were very violent from 1821 to 1827, particularly around Bathurst, and have been termed the Bathurst Wars. The loss of fishing grounds and significant sites was retaliated through attacks with spears on cattle and stockmen. In the 1850s there were still corroborees around Mudgee but there were fewer clashes. In the first and second world wars, structural and cultural beliefs at the time excluded the majority of Aboriginal People from participating to defend Australia.[7] The trend for population growth since the mid 1960s has been positive, trending significantly upwards. The growth rate is ca. 2.2% in contrast to the lower 1.6% for the total Australian population.[8]

Notable people[edit]

Wiradjuri culture in fiction[edit]

The short story Death in the Dawntime, originally published in The Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives (Mike Ashley, editor; 1995), is a murder mystery that takes place entirely among the Wiradjuri people before the arrival of Europeans in Australia. The story prominently features various concepts in Wiradjuri folklore and tradition, such as the ngurupal: this is an area within the tribal territory which is a public assembly space for adult male Wiradjuri who have been formally initiated into manhood, yet which is forbidden ground for females or uninitiated males. Some of the dialogue in this story is in the Wiradjuri language.

In Bryce Courtenay's novel Jessica, the plot is centred in Wiradjuri region. Jessica's best friend (Mary Simpson) was from Wiradjuri.[14]

Noel Beddoe's novel The Yalda Crossing also explores Wiradjuri history from an early settler perspective, bringing to life a little-known massacre that occurred in the 1830s. Andy Kissane's poem, "The Station Owner's Daughter, Narrandera" tells a story about the aftermath of that same massacre, and was the inspiration for Alex Ryan's short film, Ngurrumbang,[15] a finalist in the 2013 Dendy Awards for Australian Short Films.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Tindale, Norman (1974). "Wiradjuri (NSW)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (online extract). South Australian Museum. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Dousset, Laurent (2005). "Wiradjuri". AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Macquarie Aboriginal Words. Sydney: Macquarie Library. 1994. pp. 24, 79–80, 87. 
  4. ^ Coe, Mary. Windradyne: A Wiradjuri Koori. p. 4 in Patrick, Kathy; Samantha Simmons (1994). "Australian Museum's Aboriginal Collections: Wiradjuri" (PDF). Australian Museum. p. 39. Retrieved 18 September 2007. . 
  5. ^ S Grant, J Rudder, A first Wiradjuri dictionary, Restoration House, 2005
  6. ^ Trish Albert, Keeping Language Alive, National Museum of Australia, 2008
  7. ^ http://www.ww2australia.gov.au/allin/indigenous.html
  8. ^ http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indigenous-population-to-grow-by-a-third-by-2026-abs-projects-20140430-zr1ur.html
  9. ^ "Sacred Era". Retrieved 31 January 2016. 
  10. ^ "Deadly Yarns with Wizz and Nails". Retrieved 31 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Senior Australian of the Year". australianoftheyear.org.au. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  12. ^ Wiradjuri language
  13. ^ "David Peachey Foundation". The David Peachey Foundation. Retrieved 15 July 2009. 
  14. ^ Courtney, Bryce (1998). Jessica. Viking Australia. ISBN 0-670-88351-4. 
  15. ^ http://ngurrumbang.com/
  16. ^ http://www.sff.org.au/public/films/program/dendy-awards-for-australian-short-films/

External links[edit]