Coordinates: 32°35′S 150°50′E / 32.583°S 150.833°E / -32.583; 150.833
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Wonnarua people
aka: Wonnuaruah/Wonarua/Wannerawa[1]
IBRA 6.1 Sydney Basin.png
Hunter Region bioregion
Language family:Pama–Nyungan
Language branch:Yuin–Kuric
Language group:(??)
Group dialects:Hunter River and Lake Macquarie Language (Awabakal-Wanarruwa)[2]
Area (approx. 5,200 sq. km)
Bioregion:Hunter Region
Location:Upper Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Coordinates:32°35′S 150°50′E / 32.583°S 150.833°E / -32.583; 150.833[1]
Other geological:Yengo National Park[6]
Notable individuals
Jackey Jackey

The Wonnarua people, otherwise written Wanarruwa, are a group of Aboriginal Australian people united by strong ties of kinship, and who survived in family groups or clans scattered along the inland area of what is now known as the Upper Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia. Their creation spirit is Baiami, also known as Koin, the creator of all things and the Keeper of the Valley.[8]


The origin of the Wonnarua language is unclear; however, linguists group closely-related dialects together under the description "language of the Hunter River/Lake Macquarie" (HRLM). That term denotes the geographical location of the closely-related dialects rather than the name of the language group. The area extends from north of the HawkesburyMacDonald River (HMR) language and south of the Lower North Coast language (LNC). Exact geographical locations of the language groups are, at this stage, speculative.[9]


Their traditional territory, estimated to comprise an area extending over 2,000 square miles (5,200 km2), spreads from the Upper Hunter River above Maitland, west to the Great Dividing Range, towards Wollombi.[1] The Wonnarua were bounded to the north by the Geawegal people, to the north–east by the Worimi peoples, to the south east by the Awabakal people, to the south by the Darkinung and to the west by the Wiradjuri people. The Wonnarua also had trade and ceremonial links with the Kamilaroi people.


The Wonnarua, at the beginning of contact with whites, are estimated to have numbered around 500.[10]

The Gringai were a clan of the Worimi,[5] whose traditional lands are in the Dungog area.[11]

Native title[edit]

On behalf of the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People, Scott Franks and Anor put in a native title claim on 19 August 2013.[12] The document claimed rights over an area of roughly 9,500 square kilometres (3,700 sq mi), embracing the catchment zone within the Great Dividing Range, the Liverpool Range, and the major rivers coming out of the Barringtons, under Yango. The claim included Singleton, Muswellbrook, Dungog, Maitland, and the shire council lands of the Upper Hunter.[13] The claim was registered in January 2015 and referred to the Federal Court deliberate over the claim and to make a determination.[14][4] However, it was ultimately discontinued and removed from the register of native title claims on 2 March 2020.[15] The discontinuance appears to have been the result of disputes with other Aboriginal people who claimed native title in the area but in a different way and these disputes led to an independent anthropologist, Dr Lee Sackett, being appointed by the Court to prepare a report to resolve the different views of native title in the area. Dr Sackett's conclusions were to the effect that key details of the claim's structure were not supported by the evidence.[16]

Notable Wonnarua people[edit]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Wannerawa
  • Wonnah
  • Wonnuaruah/Wonarua

Source: Tindale 1974, p. 201



  1. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 201.
  2. ^ Hobson 2010, p. 110.
  3. ^ Miller 1887, pp. 352–357.
  4. ^ a b McCarthy 2015.
  5. ^ a b Tindale 1974.
  6. ^ a b Strategic Plan 2009–2019.
  7. ^ Frick 2014.
  8. ^ a b Maitland History: Wonnarua People.
  9. ^ Wafer & Lissarrague 2008.
  10. ^ Miller 1887, p. 352.
  11. ^ Wafer 2014, p. 63.
  12. ^ Franks & Lester 2013.
  13. ^ Meet the Mob 2015.
  14. ^ Newcastle Herald 2015.
  15. ^ "Register of Native Title Claims, Application Details: Scott Franks and Anor on behalf of the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People (NC2013/006)". www.nntt.gov.au.
  16. ^ "Glencore Coal Pty Limited v Franks [2020] FCA 1801". judgments.fedcourt.gov.au. Retrieved 1 February 2021.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]