The Warnindhilyagwa, otherwise (formerly) known as Ingura, are an Aboriginal Australian people living on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of Australia.

Warnindhilyagwa men and boys in a bush shelter in Groote Eylandt, 1933
Total population
1,596 (2016)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Northern Territory
Anindilyagwa (written in various ways)


Norman Tindale who undertook the first ethnographic studies on Groote Eylandt, stated that during his state in 1921-1922, the traditional name for the tribe was the Ingura (with Ingurawala their term for the language). Elders who recalled him testified that this was indeed the old term for the Warnindhilyagwa, the latter being an innovation from the east that began to gain currency only in the postwar period.[2]


The Warnindhilyagwa are speakers of Anindilyakwa. In the view of Arthur Capell, Anindilyakwa displayed perhaps "the most complicated grammar of any Australian language",[3] a distinction it has come to share with the nearby mainland language of Nunggubuyu also known as Wubuy. Anindilyakwa is unrelated to the Pama–Nyungan language family, which contains most Australian languages. It shares similar grammatical structures with Wubuy, though the two differ in basic vocabulary.[4] There is a dialect variant, spoken mainly by members of the Umbakumba community, which uses laminopalatals in place of laminodentals, and a stronger pitch. Anindilyakwa is characterized by prefixation for number, person and gender with regard to all (an exception concerns loanwords) nouns, adjectives, personal and demonstrative adjectives, and words are characteristically lengthy, ranging from 2 to as many as 14 syllables.[5] An "eyelash" for example is mwamwitjingwila mwanpwa (eye's plumage),[6] and a man is nanimwamwalya (human male possessing body fat).[7]

Country and ecology

Warnindhilyagwa land extends some 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) encompassing three islands, Groote Eylandt, Bickerton, and Woodahs.[8] Groote Eylandt has a variety of habitats: dense stands on monsoon forests rising behind coastal sand dunes, alternating with mangrove and mudflats. Sandstone outcrops and laterite provide excellent niches for shellfish.[9]

The fruit of the Zamia Palm called burrawang which though containing the deadly toxin macrozamin[9] is reported to have been generally avoided, except as a "hard time food".[10] But the Warnindhilyagwa have several methods of making it edible, by leaching it in running water for several days.

Social organization

Opinion differs with regard to the number of bands composing the Warnindhilyagwa. Norman Tindale estimated they were divided into 6 hordes, Peter Worsley counted either 5 or 12.[8] Some of the bands listed in Tindale are:

  • Andiljaugwa
  • Wani-Ndiljaugwa. (horde or clan)
  • Awarikpa
  • Amakurupa. toponymic horde name.[8]


Macassans from Sulawesi traded with northern Australian aborigines long before the arrival of Europeans. Exploiting the monsoonal winds in December of each year, they sailed down in praus, to trade for native trepang, beeswax, ironwood and pearls, which they brought back to supply the southern Chinese market, where, in particular, trepang was highly sought after as a delicacy. In exchange, they provided beads, metal, canoe technologies, sails, ceramics, earthenware pots and fishing hooks. The scale of the enterprise was large: Matthew Flinders came across one expedition involving some 1,000 sailors in 60 praus.[11] After the Australian government started to impose taxes on this kind of Macassar-northern Australian commerce in the 1880s, it experienced a down-turn, the last trading season concluding in 1906-7.[12] They introduced tamarind to the island.[9] The presence in four families of genetically transmitted Machado–Joseph disease is thought to derive from a Makassar ancestor who carried the disease.[13]

By the 1950s, the Warnindhilyagwa had moved into settlements like Angurugu and Umbakumba, ran by a Church group called the Church Missionary Society. However, their lives would be drastically altered when manganese was discovered on the island. In 1964, the Groote Eylandt Mining Company was given lease over the island, in exchange for royalty payments to the Church Missionary Society. The first shipments of manganese ore left in 1966, and currently, the mine is producing over 3 million tonnes of manganese a year,[14] over 15% of total world production. The mine is expected to continue production at least until 2027.[15] The establishment of the mine caused upheavals in traditional land sensibilities, since the indigenous people were forcibly dislocated and compelled to live in close proximity to one another. As a consequence, two clans, the Mamrika and Amagula have been feuding for some decades, perhaps reflecting a longer historical enmity, and on occasion eruptions of violence, involving also machetes, have broken out.[16]

Alternative names

  • Anindilyagwa[17]
  • Wanindilyaugwa
  • Andiljaugwa, Andiljaukwa, Andilyaugwa
  • Wani-Ndiljaugwa
  • En Indiljaugwa. (language name)
  • Andilagwa
  • Lamadalpu. (the Ingura/Warnindhilyagwa settled in Trial Bay)
  • Awarikpa
  • Amakurupa[8]



    1. Census 2016.
    2. Tindale 1974, p. 142.
    3. Dixon 2011, p. 7.
    4. Leeding 1996, p. 193.
    5. Leeding 1996, pp. 193–194.
    6. Leeding 1996, p. 215.
    7. Leeding 1996, p. 208.
    8. Tindale 1974, p. 226.
    9. Waddy 1986, p. 149.
    10. Clarke 2011, p. 90.
    11. Clarke 1994, pp. 1–2.
    12. Clark & May 2013, pp. 1–2.
    13. Macknight 2008, pp. 141.
    14. Umbakumba 2015.
    15. McCulloch 2016.
    16. La Canna & Breen 2016.
    17. Anindilyakwa Land Council.


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