Goulburn Islands

The Goulburn Islands are a group of small islands and islets in the Arafura Sea off the coast of Arnhem Land in Northern Territory of Australia. The largest islands are the North and South Goulburn Islands where the climate is slightly cooler than in Darwin.[1] The Maung Aboriginal people are the traditional owners of the Goulburn Islands.

The islands are notable for the large number of indigenous languages spoken there. In particular, the Warruwi community on South Goulburn Island - where ar least nine different languages are spoken within a population of only 450 people[2] - has been noted as an example of receptive multilingualism.[3] The islands and their indigenous inhabitants were featured in the 2015 David Grubin produced PBS documentary "Language Matters with Bob Holman" which focused on the loss of many of the planets' native tongues such as those spoken in the Goulburns due to globalisation.[4]

Approximately 300 people live in the Goulburn Islands. The majority of the population reside on South Goulburn Island, in the community of Warruwi and surrounding outstations.

Facilities in the community include a primary through secondary education school, health clinic, supermarket, police station, a council office, and an Aboriginal arts center sustained by public funding.


  1. Goulburn Islands. About Australia. Retrieved on 2 May 2015
  2. Bøyum, Malene. "Multilingualism at Warruwi Community". UiO: Center for Multilingualism in Society across the Lifespan. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  3. Erard, Michael. "The Small Island Where 500 People Speak Nine Different Languages". The Atlantic. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  4. http://www.languagemattersfilm.com

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