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Map of the traditional lands of Australian Aboriginal tribes around the Baada.[a]

The Baada, also commonly called the Bardi, are an indigenous Australian people, living north of Broome and inhabiting parts of the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.


The Baada language is a non-Pama-Nyungan tongue,the most northerly variety of the Nyulnyulan language family. It is mutually intelligible with Jawi.[1] It is the best known Nyulnyulan language, and a detailed grammar of the language exists, written by Claire Bowern.[2]


The Baada's traditional land, estimated by Norman Tindale to encompass about 300 square miles (780 km2), was in the Cape Leveque peninsula, extending eastwards from Cape Borda to Cygnet Bay and Cunningham Point.[3] There are problems with this estimate, in particular with the southern borders assigned to the Baada.[4] The Kooljaman resort at Cape Leveque is run by Bardi people.[citation needed]

Social organization and economy

The Baada were a maritime, coastal people, composed of 5 groups. They crafted pegged mangrove (tjulbu) logs (tjulbu) from a light buoyant variety (mandjilal) which they got in trade from the Djaui people of Sunday Island to form rafts (gaalwa)[5] in order to venture out to the sea to hunt, and to visit the outlying islands.[6]

As with the Djaui, the Baada defined land rights in terms of 4 kinds of relationship:

  • (1) Ownership of a patrilineal estate (booroo) by virtue of patrilineal descent.
  • (2) A right of access to the patrilineal estate of one's mother (ningalmoo)
  • (3) Rights stemming from the site associated with one's conception totem (raya)
  • (4) Rights that derive from customary usage and intermarriage.[7]

History of contact

Norman Tindale thought that the Barda were perhaps those described by William Dampier. Dampier arrived in the privateer Cygnet off this coast on 5 January 1688, and remained there doing repairs until 12 March, This has been identified as, in all probability, Karakatta Bay in King Sound, now One Arm Point. The ancestors of the Baada were thus probably the first native Australian people described by Western explorers.[3][8][9] A degree of confirmation of this inference emerged when Toby Metcalfe, a linguist who has studied the Baada language, suggested that Dampier's report of his encounter with the natives of the bay contained a word which was still recognizable from the Baada lexicon.

'At our first coming, before we were acquainted with them or they with us, a company of them who lived on the main came just against our ship, and, standing on a pretty high bank, threatened us with their swords and lances by shaking them at us: at last the captain ordered the drum to be beaten, which was done of a sudden with much vigour, purposely to scare the poor creatures. They hearing the noise ran away as fast as they could drive; and when they ran away in haste they would cry Gurry, gurry, speaking deep in the throat.'[10]

Metcalfe argued that, indisputably, the word repeated here, as transcribed as gurri was in fact gnaarri, the "most feared and fickle" of the Baada malevolent spirit-beings.[11] Thus, by an historical irony, it emerged that Dampier, who wrote down notoriously in his journal that the inhabitants of Baada territory were "the miserablest people in the world," was considered in turn by the Baada as the 'miserablest' and 'nastiest' of evil spirits.[12][11]

The present

The Bardi used to live on Sunday Island where a UAM missionary, Wilfrid Henry Douglas, settled down in 1946, learning the Baada language and attempting to translate some passages in the New Testament into the local tongue.[13]

Baada and Jawi peoples now live at One Arm Point,[14] Djarindjin and Lombadina.

Native title

After a landmark 2002 High Court decision confirmed the primacy of the Native Title Act of 1993,[15] the Baada and Jawi people managed to obtain recognition of their native title claim in 2005, when a Federal Court under Justice French ruled that they were entitled to exclusive rights over some areas of the roughly 400 square miles (1,000 km2) to which they had laid claim.[16] They also sought to claim a small section of Brue Reef, 31 miles north of Cape Leveque.[17] Justice French ruled in June 2015 affirmed part of their claim, while adding they had non-exclusive native title rights over areas below the mean high water mark. The Brue Reef claim was dismissed.[18]

Notable people

  • Jimmy Chi. A playwright was of Baada descent on his mother's side (Scottish-Baada). His father was of mixed Chinese and Japanese descent.[19]

Alternative names

  • Bad.
  • Ba:d.
  • Bard.
  • Barda, Bardi, Bad.[3]

Some words

  • wangalang. (young man)
  • noomoonjoo. (seaweed)
  • aamba (man)[20]
  • aamba-nyarr-oorany (married woman)[b]


  1. ^ This map is indicative only.
  2. ^ lit.aamba(man)+nyarr(comitative)+oorany(woman)[21]


  1. ^ Bowern 2008, pp. 59,145.
  2. ^ Bowern 2012, p. 15.
  3. ^ a b c Tindale 1974, p. 239.
  4. ^ Bowern 2016, p. 282.
  5. ^ Bowern 2016, p. 281.
  6. ^ Tindale 1974, pp. 57,239.
  7. ^ Bowern 2016, p. 284.
  8. ^ Mailer & Collins 2013.
  9. ^ Preston & Preston 2010, p. 34.
  10. ^ Dampier 1859, p. 106.
  11. ^ a b McGregor 2013, p. 9.
  12. ^ Metcalfe 1979, p. 197.
  13. ^ Douglas 2014.
  14. ^ Spittle 2010.
  15. ^ NNTT 2002.
  16. ^ Wilson-Clark 2005.
  17. ^ Kormendy 2004.
  18. ^ Wilson-Clark 2015.
  19. ^ Powell 2017.
  20. ^ Bowern 2016, pp. 281,282,285.
  21. ^ Bowern 2012, p. 246.


  • "AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia". AIATSIS.
  • "Tindale Tribal Boundaries" (PDF). Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Western Australia. September 2016.
  • Bowern, Claire (2008). "History of research on Bardi and Jawi". In McGregor, William. Encountering Aboriginal languages: studies in the history of Australian linguistics. Pacific Linguistics Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. pp. 59–84. ISBN 978-0-858-83582-5.
  • Bowern, Claire (2012). A Grammar of Bardi. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-110-27818-7.
  • Bowern, Claire (2016). "Language and land in the Northern Kimberley" (PDF). In Peter, K. Austin; Koch, Harold; Simpson, Jane. Language, land & song: Studies in honour of Luise Hercus. EL Publishing. pp. 277–286. ISBN 978-0-728-60406-3.
  • Dampier, William (1859). Major, Richard Henry, ed. Early Voyages to Terra Australis. Hakluyt Society.
  • Douglas, Rob (2014). He Speaks Our Language. Ark House Press. ISBN 978-0-992-51927-8.
  • "High Court affirms primacy of the Native Title Act". National Native Title Tribunal. 8 August 2002.
  • Kormendy, Nicolette (8 September 2004). "Bardi and Jawi people seek native title recognition over reef and waters north of Cape Leveque". National Native Title Tribunal.
  • Mailer, Robert; Collins, Ben (15 October 2013). "Discovering the other man behind Broome's William Dampier memorial". ABC News.
  • McGregor, William B. (2007). "Hermann Nekes and Ernest Worms's "Australian Languages"". Anthropos. 102 (1): 99–114. JSTOR 40466792.
  • McGregor, William B. (2013). The Languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-39602-3.
  • Metcalfe, Christopher Douglas (1979). "Some aspects of the Bardi language: a non-technical description". In Berndt, R. M.; Berndt, C. H. Aborigines of the West: their past and their present. University of Western Australia Press. pp. 197–213. ISBN 978-0-855-64145-0.
  • Powell, Graeme (27 June 2017). "Jimmy Chi: Bran Nue Dae playwright, award-winning Indigenous 'WA treasure' dies". ABC News.
  • Preston, Diana; Preston, Michael (2010). A Pirate Of Exquisite Mind: The Life Of William Dampier. Random House. ISBN 978-1-446-42918-1.
  • Spittle, Deborah (24 March 2010). "Bardi and Jawi appeal upheld". Government of Australia.
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Baada (WA)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.
  • Wilson-Clark, Charlie (10 June 2005). "Bardi and Jawi people rewarded after long struggle". National Native Title Tribunal.
  • Wilson-Clark, Charlie (30 November 2015). "Native title recognised in the Kimberley". National Native Title Tribunal.
  • Worms, E. A. (January–June 1950). "Feuer und Feuerzeuge in Sage und Brauch der Nordwest-Australier". Anthropos. 45 (1/3): 145–164. JSTOR 40450834.
  • Worms, E. A. (December 1950). "Djamar, the Creator. A Myth of the Bād (West Kimberley, Australia)". Anthropos. 45 (4/6.): 641–658. JSTOR 40449333.
  • Worms, E. A. (May–August 1952). "Djamar and His Relation to Other Culture Heroes". Anthropos. 47 (3/4.): 539–560. JSTOR 40449676.
  • Worms, E. A. (1957). "Australian Mythological Terms: Their Etymology and Dispersion". Anthropos. 52 (5/6): 732–768. JSTOR 40453110.
  • Worms, E. A. (1959). "Verbannungslied eines australischen Wildbeuters. Ein Beitrag zur Lyrik der Bād". Anthropos. 54 (1/2): 154–168. JSTOR 40454331.
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