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The Wunambal are an indigenous Australian people of the northern Kimberley region of Western Australia.


The Wunambal were a people of York Sound. Norman Tindale estimated their tribal domains to encompass roughly 3,800 square miles (9,800 km2), running north along the from Brunswick Bay, as far as the Admiralty Gulf and the Osborne Islands. Their inland extension reached about 25–30 miles, as far as the divide of the King Edward River. They were at Cape Wellington peninsula, Port Warrender, and somewhat further east. The Worrorra lay to the south; the Ngarinjin to their west, while on their north western frontier were the Kambure.[1]

Social organization[edit]

The Wunambal were organized into hordes:

  • Laiau.(either a tribe or a Wunambal horde)
  • Wardana. (either a small tribe or horde, now extinct)
  • Winjai. (eastern horde)
  • Kanaria.(northeastern horde near Port Warrender).[2]
  • Peremanggurei.

A tribe with an ethnonym identical to that of the Carson river Wilawila, known also as the Tjawurungari/Tawandjangango, inhabited the Osborne Islands. They spoke a dialect variety of the language spoken by the Kambure.[2]


The Wunambal were called 'perhaps among the most venturesome of Australian aborigines.' They learnt part of the craft of building rafts that could withstand the high rips and tides of the sea, the latter rising as much as 12 metres, from Malay visitors in order to make sailing forays out to reefs (warar) and islets in the Cassini and Montalivet archipelagoes, and as far as the northerly Long Reef. The Wunambal bands who excelled in this were the Laiau and the Wardana.[3]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Wunambulu, Wunambullu.
  • Wanambal.
  • Laiau. (Institut islands)
  • Wardana. (Montlivet islands)
  • Winjai.
  • Kanaria.
  • Peremanggurei.(head of Prince Frederick Harbour
  • Jamindjal, Jarmindjal, (Worrorra exonym meaning "northeasterners,"
  • Unambal,, Unambalnge.
  • Wonambul, Wumnabal, Wunambulu.



  1. ^ Tindale 1974, pp. 261–262.
  2. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 262.
  3. ^ Tindale 1974, pp. 152–153.


  • Capell, Arthur (March 1941). "Notes on the Wunambal language". Oceania. 11 (3): 295–308. JSTOR 40327904.
  • Hernández, Theodore (March 1941). "Social organization of the Drysdale River tribes". Oceania. 11 (3): 212–232. JSTOR 40327901.
  • Hernández, Theodore (December 1941). "Children among the Drysdale River Tribes". Oceania. 12 (2): 122–133. JSTOR 40327939.
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Wundambal (WA)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.