The Waanyi people are an Indigenous Australian people south of the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland and the Northern Territory.


The Waanyi language, now moribund, had some 10 speakers in 1981, mainly to the west of Doomadgee.[1] It is classified as one of the Garrwan languages.[2]


The Waanyi territory was in well-watered limestone and sandstone country, including parts of the Gregory River. In Norman Tindale's estimation, the Waanyi held about 9,700 square miles (25,000 km2) of territory, extending from the vicinity of the south of the upper Nicholson River,[3] west of Corinda, and at Spring and Lawn Hill creeks. Their eastern extension lay at the Barkly (Barclay) River, Lawn Hill and Bannockburn. Their western frontier was at Old Benmara, and southwest they roamed as far as Mount Morgan.[4]

They lay south of the Kunindiri[5] and Garrwa people, west of the Injilarija and Nguburinji tribes,[6] and east of the Wambaya and Wakaya tribes.


The whole area of the north was affected deeply by the pastoral boom opened up in 1881 in the Northern Territory, with massive stations under the control of a few eastern investors hastily stocked with cattle: the key watering sites were locked out, tribes were shot at sight, and many groups moved east into the Gulf of Carpentaria, where the same phenomenon repeated itself. The Waanyi and the Garrwa, like many tribes local to the area that found their lands taken over for pastoral leases and resisted dispossession, found themselves threatened. The Eastern Waanyi were wiped out:[7] settler vigilantes and police magistrates employed native mounted troopers to ambush, murder and massacre any aboriginal groups they came across. The lessees of Gregory Downs submitted testimony in 1880 that the police rounded up blacks and then shot them, while that of Lawn Hill fived years later said that on his cattle run alone police had shot over a hundred blacks in three years, without achieving their aim of stopping the killing of livestock.[8] The displaced Waanyi eventually took over the territory in the Lawn Hill area of the extinct Injilarija.[9]

Native title

The Waanyi first lodged a native title claim over an area known to them traditionally as Wugujaji in June 1994.[10] Under a Queensland Government land act of 1989, CZL was granted two mining leases covering 23,585 hectares extending through Waanyi land the Century Mine was established on it.[11] Eventually the terms of a settlement were agreed on, and CZL paid funding, training and employment to the traditional peoples, an accord known as the $90 million offer.[12]

The Waanyi claim a right to co-manage both the Boodjamulla National Park and Riversleigh, the latter holding the richest Oligocene and Miocene mammalian and reptile fossil field in the world.[13]

Notable people

Alternative names

  • Wanji
  • Wanyee
  • Wanee
  • Waangyee
  • Wonyee[4]



    1. Moseley 2008, p. 836.
    2. Mushin 2013, p. 5.
    3. Trigger 1992, p. 26.
    4. Tindale 1974, p. 237.
    5. Basedow 1907, p. 3.
    6. Trigger 2015, p. 56.
    7. Roberts 2005, pp. 274–292,274.
    8. Evans 2007, p. 137.
    9. Sutton 2004, p. 5.
    10. Harwood 2002, p. 85.
    11. Harwood 2002, p. 82.
    12. Harwood 2002, p. 86.
    13. Smith 2008, p. 165.
    14. Ravenscroft 2016, pp. 59–79,76ff..


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