Minya nyura wubaliyn!

Welcome to the trial of the Gathang Language Group website. We have set up a few pages and will send invitations to all Gathang language teachers and students for your input and feedback eg name, etc. This is a new way of sharing language and teaching, so it may take a while to get it running smoothly. At the moment Julie is managing it, but I hope you guys and gals will take on this role, or play a part, really soon. gapu. Gary, Julie & Anna

Language Resources and Recordings

The historical record for Gathang language is, unfortunately, not particularly large in quantity or high in quality. Conversely, there are many place names in Gathang country in use in modern times, more than is usually found in NSW.

Several people recorded the language in the 1900s, with varying degrees of accuracy. In 1887 Curr published the earliest word list, compiled by John Branch. Enright wrote a description of the language and wordlist published in 1900. In 1929, the American linguist Gerhardt Laves worked with Charlie Briggs, Bill Dungie, Charlie Bugg, Jim Moy, Albert Lobban, Hannah Bugg, Susna Russell, Ted Lobban, Mrs Russell, Laves’ work is in the form of unpublished field notes.

In 1961 an unknown compiler worked with Jim Davies. The linguist Nils Holmer made audio recordings in the 1960s with Eddie Lobban and Fred Bugg. From this he compiled a grammar, a wordlist and also published traditional and non traditional stories.

Following consultation with Gathang community groups and individuals, Muurrbay-MRALC linguist Amanda Lissarrague analysed the data from these and other sources,  and we  published  A grammar and dictionary of Gathang: the language of the Birrbay, Guringay and Warrimay  in 2010.This provides a collection of all that is known about Gathang language at this point, a standardised writing system and will serve as a reference for the production of teaching and learning materials.

The main published texts are:

Branch, J 1887 “No 186: Port Macquarie” in EM Curr (ed.), The Australian Race. Melbourne: John Ferres, Government printer, 3:338-350.

Elkin, AP 1932 “Notes on the Social Organisation of the Worimi, A Kattang-Speaking People”. In Oceania, 2(3), 359-63.

Enright, WJ 1900 “The language, weapons and manufactures of the Aborigines of Port Stephens, NSW”. In Journal of the Royal Society of NSW, 34:103-18.

Enright, W J.1933. “Social Divisions of the Birripai”. In Mankind 1(5):102.

Holmer, N 1966, An attempt towards a comparative grammar of two Australian languages, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.

Holmer, N. 1967. An attempt towards a comparative grammar of two Australian languages, Part 2 Indices and vocabularies of Kattang and Thangatti, Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, Canberra.

Holmer, NM & Holmer, V, 1969, Stories from two native tribes of eastern Australia, Carl Bloms Boktryckeri, Lund.


Language Details

Gathang language is classified as a Pama-Nyungan language. Recent studies indicate a close grammatical relationship with HRLM. There are many cognates (words which occur in both languages) as well as many structural similarities between the two languages. There are also a significant number of cognates in Gathang with Gumbaynggirr. There are many definitions in the Gathang vocabulary which have two words, where one word has a cognate from the south (HRLM) and the other has a cognate in the north, either Gumbaynggirr or Dhanggati.

Today, many Birrbay, Warrimay and Guringay people are involved in revitalising Gathang language, by learning language and using it in such areas as speeches, artwork, and radio broadcasting, and in naming people, organisations and buildings.

Alternative spellings include: Bahree, Cottong, Gadang, Gadhang, Guttahn, Karrapath, Carapath, Katanga, Kathang, Kattang, Katthung, Kittang, Kutthack, Kutthung, Watthung, Molo, Port Stephens tribe, Warimi, Warramie, Warrimee, Watthungk, Wattung, Worimi, Warrangine, Wannungine, Buraigal, Gamipingal, Maiangal, Garuagal, Gooreeggai, Goreenggai, Gourenggai, Gingai, Gooreenggai, Gringai, Birripai, Bripi, Biripai etc.


Traditional country

Whilst it is impossible to put precise boundaries on language groups, we can speak generally. Gathang was spoken between the Wilson River (north of Port Macquarie, including the hinterland, as far as the Falls Country) and Port Stephens in the south, and as far west as Maitland, Paterson and Gloucester.

Their neighbours are Dhanggati in the north, the language from the Hunter River and Lake Macquarie (HRLM) south of Port Stephens, which is also known by the names Awabakal, Kuringgay, Wonnaruwa, and possibly Kayawaykal.



Gathang is the language of the people known as the Birrbay, Warrimay and Guringay. Years ago, Gathang speakers would have been multilingual, also speaking the languages of their neighbours. There are significant social relationships amongst Birrbay, Anaiwan (Nganyawana), Dhanggati and Gumbaynggirr peoples, including a shared set of marriage sections.