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The Wudjari were an indigenous people of the southern region of Western Australia.


The Wudjari's traditional lands are estimated to have extended over some 6,900 sq.miles, encompassing the southern coastal area from the Gairdner River eastwards, as far as Point Malcolm. The inland extension was to about 30 miles. Kent, Ravensthorpe, Fanny Cove, Esperance, and Cape Arid all have been developed over the old Wudjari lands.[1]

Early history

There was a western/eastern divide among the Wudjari hordes. At the earliest point of contact with white explorers, it was noted that the western divisions were on the move, shifting towards Bremer Bay. The groups to the east of Fanny Cove and the Young River, on the other hand, had adopted circumcision as part of their tribal initiatory rites, a transformation that earned them the name of Bardonjunga/Bardok among those Wudjari who refused to absorb the practice. This customary scission, according to Norman Tindale, perhaps marked the inchoate genesis of a new tribal identity among the easterners, who had also adopted a differential ethnonym for themselves; Nyunga.[a] These Wudjari Njunga contested the terrain between Mount Ragged and Israelite Bay[b] with the Ngadjunmaia.[1]


In 1855 an edited account was published of a shipwrecked castaway, called William Jackman, purporting to relate 18 months of captivity among Australian cannibal tribes somewhere on the Great Australian Bight.[3] The story proved very popular, and the narrative seen as fascinating, but suspicions have long existed as to its authenticity. In 2002, the historian Martin Gibbs analysed both the book and its historical background and context, and concluded that some elements certainly bore traces of familiarity with the Nyungar cultural block. In particular he conjectured that parts of the tale might well reflect experience of living among the Wudjari, or Nyunga, or even the Ngadjunmaia.[4]

Some words

  • mann. (father)
  • kun. (mother)
  • twart (tame dog)
  • mookine. (wild dog)
  • kooning. (baby)[5]


  1. ^ The autonym means 'man' an assertive self-definition to defend themselves against charges by neighbouring circumcising tribes (for example the Ngadjunmaia called them derisively 'women') that they were less than men.[2]
  2. ^ The name aptly demarcates the cultural border between the circumcising and non-circumcising tribes of the area.[2]


  1. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 261.
  2. ^ a b Tindale 1974, p. 41.
  3. ^ Jackman 1855.
  4. ^ Gibbs 2002, p. 12.
  5. ^ Chester 1886, p. 390.


  • "AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia". AIATSIS.
  • "Tindale Tribal Boundaries" (PDF). Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Western Australia. September 2016.
  • Chester, George (1886). "Kent District, vocabulary of the Warrangoo tribe". In Curr, Edward Micklethwaite. The Australian race: its origin, languages, customs, place of landing in Australia and the routes by which it spread itself over the continent (PDF). 1. Melbourne: J. Ferres. pp. 390–391.
  • Gibbs, Martin (2002). The Enigma of William Jackman, ‘The Australian Captive’: Fictional account or the true story of a 19th century castaway in Western Australia?. The Great Circle. 24. Australian Association for Maritime History. pp. 3–21.
  • Jackman, William (1855). Chamberlayne, Reverend I., ed. The Australian Captive ; or, An Authentic Narrative of fifteen the Life of William Jackman in which , among other adventures, is included a forced of a year and a half among the cannibals of Nuyťs Land, on the coast of the Great Bight (PDF). Auburn: Derby and Miller.
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Wudjari (WA)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University.
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