The Ngarla People

The Ngarla People are the traditional owners of an area of land east of Port Hedland that covers the DeGrey and Pardoo pastoral stations, which spans approximately 4,655 sq km. They distinguish themselves from other Aboriginal groups in surrounding areas by the geographical description of ngaru kartipaku, meaning "from the coast side".

The Ngarla People are composed of 5 family groups: the Pilu (Draper), Jingkiri (Atwood), Pananykarra (Brown), Warrarinya (Lee) and Makanykara (Coppin) families.


Linguistically, Ngarla is a subdivision of the Pama-Nyungen language family, which is an extensive group of languages spread over a large part of Australia's landscape. Unfortunately, presently there are few Ngarla speakers remaining in the Pilbara. Rather, many Ngarla People have a passive understanding of the Ngarla language. 

With that said, extensive work has been done to preserve the language for future generations, through poetry, song and education. For more information on this fantastic venture and the work of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown, Brian Geytenbeek and Wangka Maya please see the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal language Centre.


The following poem is written by Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown:

Playing with a Dangerous Thing

Yaarnu nganarna Mukurrinya-nguru yurtakarni, Mangkuru Yaayilan-kari
We went fishing from Mukurrinya to Kangaroo Island

Kurturtungura nganarna paamu ngani marnu
Partway there we saw a bomb

Pirla tayimu warni jintaya Kajungulu mangarrjarrguralu
In the war time the Japanese had dropped it from a plane

Warni jintangu nyiniyanta mulya kankara
After it was dropped it was lying nose upwards

Mirta payiny ngarrimarnta paamu
The bomb did not explode

Nganarna witi jayinta pakarlinyjarrilu
We men were playing with it

Nganungalu kajangku marnangura pilyparr yirriny mayinta
My older brother was trying unsuccessfully to lift it by the tail

Mampurlpa payiny ngarrimarnta, punganmarnta nganarnanya, kutu Perhaps 
if it had exploded it would have killed us

Palangkanguru nganarna yaarnu yurtakarni
From there we went fishing

Mirta nganrna yurta maanmarnta
We didn’t catch any fish

Karliny jayinyu nganarna para paamurra mgani malu 
We returned to look at the bomb

Karlinyju nganarna panalala mirta juntu manmarntna
When we returned to camp we didn’t tell them about it

Makurru murri nyininyu
It stayed there a very long time
Yarti jintaku murri ngani marnuya paama
Much later the others saw the bomb

Muwarr pananga nyaarnuya yatilparra
And sent a message to the experts

Milpanyuya yatilpa para payiny jipalu
The experts came to explode it

Ngarturr mayinyu nganarna partamurri marlkarrimanu 
We didn’t know it was an extremely dangerous killer.

For more poetry and stories by name Withheld for Cultural Reasons please see the FATSILC (The Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language and Culture) website.