The Dhuwal are an indigenous Australian people of Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory


Dhuwal belongs to the Yolŋu-Matha branch of the Pama-Nyungan language family


The Dhuwal were described by Norman Tindale in 1974 as one of two groups of clans (mala), the other being the Dhuwala, both living predominantly in the coastal area facing the Arafura Sea, and inhabitting the east Arnhem land coastal area reaching from Castlereagh Bay, Buckingham River, and the Koolatong River to the vicinity of Port Bradshaw. Tindale's approximate estimate of their land estates' extension, calculated together with that of the Dhuwala, was 5,400 square miles (14,000 km2).[1] In 1927 the missionary J. C. Jennison wrote down a list of some 900 words he heard from the indigenous people of Elcho Island,[2] and modern linguistic analysis indicates that this word-list consists of vocabulary from the Dhuwal language.[3] The implication is that Dhuwal estates also existed on that island.

History of contact

The first European to come in contact with the Dhuwal, the Balamumu (seafolk/coastal people) at Caledon Bay, was Matthew Flinders. Two were shot dead in skirmishes. A short word-list was compiled of their language.[4][5][6]

Social organization

Dhuwal society is organized in terms of 8 clans, all belonging to the Dua moiety of the Yirritja/Dia binome.

Alternative names

  • Balamumu (southern exonym for the coastal tribes around Caledon Bay, meaning 'sea/coastal folk'.)
  • Barlamomo, Barlamumu
  • Malag. (from the word mala, meaning 'sea.')
  • Marlark
  • Arrawiya
  • Banjarrpuma
  • Bilamandji
  • Dhurili. (mainly used of clans to the south)
  • Durilji[1]


  1. Variant transcriptions:'Tjambarpoing, Djambarrpuyngu, Djambarpingu, Djambarbwingu, Jambarboinga, Jumbapoingo, Djambarbingo, Djambarbwingo, Djambarpinga, Tchambarupi, Djambarwingu, Gujula, Gwiyula, Ngaladharr, Naladaer, Ngalado.'[1]
  2. Variant transcriptions:'Leyagawumirr, Liagaomir, Laigajomir, Laigojomir, Galbanuk, Galwanuk, Galwangug.'[1]
  3. Variant transcriptions:'Djabu, Tjapu, Jabu, Darmaramiri, Dhamalamirr, Maradungimi, Maradanggimiri, Marrathanggimir.'[1]
  4. Variant transcriptions:'Dhapuyngu, Wurrungguku, Wurungugu.')[1]


  1. Tindale 1974, p. 224.
  2. Jennison 1927, pp. 177–192.
  3. Morphy 1983, p. 10.
  4. Flinders 1814, pp. 196–215.
  5. Tindale 1925–1926, pp. 61–62.
  6. Tindale 1974, pp. 224–225.


  • "AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia". AIATSIS.
  • Flinders, Matthew (1814). Voyage to Terra Australis. Volume 2. G. and W. Nicol.
  • Jennison, J. C. (1927). "Notes on the language of the Elcho Island aborigines". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 51: 177–192.
  • Morphy, Frances (1983). "Yolgnu". In Dixon, Robert M. W.; Blake, Barry J. (eds.). Handbook of Australian Languages. Volume 3. John Benjamins Publishing. pp. 1–188. ISBN 978-9-027-22005-9.
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1925–1926). "Natives of Groote Eylandt and the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Parts I-II". Records of the South Australian Museum. 3: 61–102, 103–134.
  • Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Duwal (NT)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University.
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