|88 (2006 Census)|
|Regions with significant populations|
The Wambaya are an indigenous people of the southern side of the Barkly Tableland, whose lands are estimated by Tindale to have stretched over some 8,100 square miles (21,000 km2). Their western frontier ran to Eva Downs, while to the east they inhabited the area as far as Mount Morgan. The southern limits were around Alroy Downs. They were present at Anthony Lagoon, Corella Lake, Brunette Downs, and Alexandria, and about the Brunette and Creswell Creeks. Working clockwise, their northern neighbours were the Ngarnka, with Waanyi on their eastern flank and the Wakaya, and then the Warumungu south with the Warlmanpa further west.
R. H. Mathews was the first to describe the class system governing marriage rules of the Wambaya, and used his model as a Wambaya pattern for an Australian intermarriage structure based on eight sectional divisions.
In terms of identity, the way a language describes the landscape in which its speakers live defines their identity. In the case of the Wambaya people this means, as Harold Koch and Rachel Nordlinger state it, following an observation by Nicholas Evans that:
in creation myths it is very common for the ancestors to be described as passing across the lands instilling different languages into different areas as they go. People are then connected to a particular tract of land and, through that connection, to the language associated with that place. Thus the Wambaya people are Wambaya because they are linked to places which are associated with the Wambaya language, and therefore speak Wambaya.
The explorer David Lindsay remarked on the fine build of the Wambaya and other tableland peoples he encountered, with many as tall as 6 feet or over.
Noting its unusual word ordering properties, Emily M. Bender described it as a "radically non-configurational language with a second position auxiliary/clitic cluster". She used it to illustrate the LinGO Grammar Matrix.
History of contact
The first colonial intruders into Wambaya lands were struck by the rich pasturing prospects they detected in the vast plains of Mitchell grass with their lagoons, streams and springs. Large herds of cattle were introduced to graze over the tableland, edging out the kangaroo, emus and bustards which had been the hunting staple of the original inhabitants. The Wambaya eventually adapted by taking on work in the cattle industry, though for a long time they were paid less than white stockmen. As late as the 1960s they received a pittance of $6 dollars a week, as opposed to the standard whiteman's weekly wage $46, for the same labour. With the passage of a ruling by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission establishing the principle of Equal pay for equal work in the outback, station owners reacted by dismissing their black employees, which meant many Wambaya established in the industry were fired and forced to drift away.
The managers of the Brunette Downs Station endeavoured to bulldoze the last remaining trace of the Wambaya, an encampment they retained on the lagoon, and shift them 60 miles north to Corella Creek.
- Wambaya people at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018)
- Tindale 1974, p. 237.
- Nordlinger 1998, p. xv.
- Pensalfini 2004, p. 142.
- Mathews 1898a, pp. 66–87.
- Mathews 1898b, pp. 151–154.
- Mathews 1900, pp. 494–501.
- Koch & Nordlinger 2014, p. 3.
- Lindsay 1890, p. 10.
- Bender 2008, pp. 977–985,978.
- Lindsay 1890, pp. 9–10.
- Gardiner 2013.
- Basedow, Herbert (1907). "Anthropological notes on the Western Coastal tribes of the Northern Territory of South Australia". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. Adelaide. 31: 1–62.
- Bender, Emily M. (2008). "Evaluating a Cross linguistic Grammar Resource: A Case Study of Wambaya" (PDF). Proceedings of ACL-08: HLT. Adelaide: Association for Computational Linguistics: 977–985.
- Gardiner, Kerry (17 July 2013). "Farewell to a tableland drifter. Joe Davey, 1965-2013". Crikey.
- Koch, Harold; Nordlinger, Rachel (2014). "The languages of Australia in linguistic research: context and issues". In Koch, Harold; Nordlinger, Rachel (eds.). The Languages and Linguistics of Australia: A Comprehensive Guide. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. pp. 3–21. ISBN 978-3-110-27977-1.
- Lindsay, David (1890). "Explorations in the Northern Territory of South Australia". Proceedings of the Royal Geographic Society of Australia, S.A. Branch. 2 (3): 1–16.
- Mathews, R. H. (1898a). "Australian divisional systems". Journal of the Proceedings of the Royal Society of N.S.W. 32: 66–87.
- Mathews, R. H. (January 1898). "Divisions of Australian tribes". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 37 (157): 151–154. JSTOR 983703.
- Mathews, R. H. (July–September 1900). "The Wombya Organization of the Australian Aborigines". American Anthropologist. 2 (3): 494–501. JSTOR 658964.
- Nordlinger, Rachel (1998). A Grammar of Wambaya, Northern Territory (Australia) (PDF). Pacific Linguistics.
- Pensalfini, Rob (2004). "Eulogizing a language: the Ngarnka experience" (pdf). International Journal of the Sociology of Language (164): 141–156.
- Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (April 1930). "The Social Organization of Australian Tribes". Oceania. 1 (1): 34–63. JSTOR 40373034.
- Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (October–December 1930). "The Social Organization of Australian Tribes Part II (Continued)". Oceania. 1 (3): 322–341. JSTOR 40327330.
- Spencer, Sir Baldwin; Gillen, Francis J. (1904). Northern Tribes of Central Australia (PDF). Macmillan Publishers.
- Spencer, Baldwin (1914). Native tribes of the Northern Territory of Australia (PDF). London: Macmillan Publishers.
- Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Wambaia (NT)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.
- Yallop, C. L. (1969). "The Aljawara and Their Territory". Oceania. 39 (3): 187–197. JSTOR 40329775.