The Wiradjuri (many other spellings; see below) are an Indigenous Australian group of 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, New South Wales and smaller groups at West Wyalong, Parkes, Forbes, Cootamundra, Cowra and Young.


The Wiradjuri name for themselves is "Wirraaydhuurray" (northern dialect; pronounced|wiraːjd̪uːraj) or "Wirraayjuurray" (southern dialect; IPA| [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". [cite book |year=1994 |title=Macquarie Aboriginal Words |location=Sydney |publisher=Macquarie Library |pages=24, 79–80, 87]

The name has been attempted to be reproduced in writing in over 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 were the largest Aboriginal group in New South Wales. They occupied 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.cite web | last = Tindale | first = N.B. | authorlink = Norman Barnett Tindale | year = 1974 | url = http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/archives/HDMS/aa338/tindaletribes/wiradjuri.htm | title = Wiradjuri (NSW) | work = Aboriginal Tribes of Australia | publisher = South Australian Museum | accessdate = 2006-05-26]

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 (Murrumbidjeri). The Murray River formed the Wiradjuri's southern boundary, the change from woodland to open grassland formed their eastern boundary." [ Mary Coe, in her book "Windradyne: A Wiradjuri Koori" quoted at page 4 in cite web | last = Patrick | first = Kathy | authorlink = | coauthors = Samantha Simmons | year = 1994 | url = http://www.austmus.gov.au/ahu/pdf/wiradjuri.pdf | title = Australian Museum's Aboriginal Collections: Wiradjuri | format = pdf: 39 pages | work = | publisher = Australian Museum | accessdate = 2007-09-18 ]

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 crayfish 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.

Wiradjuri Language

The Wiradjuri language had effectively died out of everyday spoken use, but has recently been reconstructed from early European anthropologist's records by 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.

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

European settlement

Clashes between European settlers and Aborigines 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 and the killing of Aboriginal People was retaliated through attacks with spears on cattle and stockmen. In the 1850s there were still corroborees around Mudgee but there were fewer clashes. European settlement had taken hold and the Aboriginal population was in decline.

Notable Wiradjuri people

Wiradjuri elders Isabell Coe and Neville "Uncle Chappy" Williams are leading land activists and proponents in the Lake Cowal Campaign.

Windradyne was an important Aboriginal leader during the Bathurst Wars.

Mum (Shirl) Smith was a community activist in the twentieth century.

Linda Burney is a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly.

Paul Coe is a lawyer and activist.

Kevin Gilbert was a twentieth century author.

Evonne Goolagong was one of Australia's most famous tennis players.

Stan Grant is a notable Australian journalist.

The Wiradjuri elder, Stan Grant, has been working on the reconstruction of the language. The elder Geoff Anderson is teaching the language to children and adults at Parkes.

Harry Wedge and Brook Andrew are notable artists.

Tara June Winch is an author.

Jimmy Clements elder, present at the opening of Provisional Parliament House in 1927.

Wiradjuri culture in fiction

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. "Death in the Dawntime" was written by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, a British author who spent his formative years in the Australian outback, where he encountered representatives of many Aboriginal cultures.

In Bryce Courtenay's novel "Jessica", the plot is centred in Wiradjuri. Jessica's best friend was from WiradjuriFact|date=May 2008.


External links

* [http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/tindale/HDMS/tindaletribes/wiradjuri.htm from the N. B. Tindale's Aboriginal Tribes of Australia (1974)]
* [http://ausanthrop.net/resources/ausanthrop_db/detail.php?id_search=572 AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database:Wiradjuri with bibliographic links]
* [http://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws.nsf/Content/South+Western+Slopes+-+regional+history New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service regional history of the South western slopes]

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