The Aboriginal traditional owners welcome you to Kakadu National Park. We are happy and proud to share this special place with you.
Kakadu is a living cultural landscape. It has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years. Ours is the oldest living culture on earth.
We are Bininj/Mungguy
Aboriginal people are called Bininj in the north of the park and Mungguy in the south. Some of us live in Kakadu's towns and others live in more remote parts of the park, but all of us have a deep spiritual connection to our country.
The land and its people have always been linked. Caring for our land and its wildlife is fundamental to our culture. Art, language, ceremonies, kinship and caring for country are all aspects of cultural responsibility that we have passed from one generation to the next, since the Creation time.
Our clans consist of two or more family groups sharing ownership of an area of land. Clan boundaries are passed from one generation to the next, generally through the father. Kakadu has about 19 clan groups.
Visit the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre for a great display and interactive game to help you understand kinship.
In the Kakadu area, our kinship system is very complex. All people, plants, animals, songs, dances, ceremonies and land are divided into two groups, or 'moieties': Duwa or Yirridja. Each moiety is subdivided into eight 'skin' groups. A child's skin group is determined by their mother's skin group but they inherit their moiety from their father.
In simple terms, kinship can be described as a system that defines how people relate to each other. Through the use of 'skin' names we identify the people around us as mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, potential marriage partners, and so on, and modify our behaviour accordingly. Almost every aspect of day-to-day communication with other Aboriginal people is governed by kinship ties.
There were about 200 Aboriginal languages in Australia at the time of European contact. These distinct languages have extensive vocabularies and complex grammars.
In the time before non-Aboriginal settlement, 12 languages were spoken in the Kakadu area. Today, only three are spoken on a regular basis: Gun-djeihmi, Kun-winjku and Jawoyn.
Many Aboriginal people will speak two or more languages. Gun-djeihmi and Kun-winjku languages are regarded as dialects of one another because speakers can understand each other. Jawoyn is a separate language.
Gun-djeihmi is a living language.
Gun-djeihmi is the language spoken in the central part of Kakadu. Unlike English, the spelling system is very consistent, so once you have learnt the rules it is quite easy to work out how to correctly pronounce words. The Aboriginal Language Park Note below gives details on how to pronounce the Gun-djeihmi alphabet, and is also available at the Bowali Visitor Centre.
Language Audio Files
Listen to our language audio files to hear the aboriginal spoken word.
Yo gamak - Yes, I'm fine. Yiddok yinang ginga - Did you see any crocodiles? Wurrgeng - Cold dry season when burning takes place. Yibolkmarnedjare gubehne guwadda - Do you like this country here? Yekke - Cool dry season. Wudda gamak - How are you? (literally: Are you well?). Wudda baleh yiyo - Where are you staying? Walakgih - A little bit Udda Balanda wurringeibun kangaroo - You English speakers use the word 'kangaroo' but we Aboriginal people say 'gunj'. Udda balanda ngurringeibun fish - You English speakers use the word 'fish' but we Aboriginal people say 'djenj'. Udda ayedgah yimdolkgang - Where are you from? Ngudda yiwokdi Gundjeihmi - Do you speak Gundjeihmi? Ngaye Manabadduma gure ngayo Gurrung - Build-up late dry season. Gunumeleng - First rains season. Gudjeuk - Middle wet season. Gubehne gunyed adberre arrigukbulerri - This land belongs to us Aboriginal people. Galuk yimdurndeng Kakadu Bolkgime yekke - It's the cool dry season now. Bobo - Goodbye. Banggerreng - Late wet season. Ayedgah yire - Where are you going? Ayedgah arrire arriyo - Where can we go camping? Aye gure ngayo town camp - I live at town camp. (or substitute another place name for "town camp"). Aye gunbolk ngarduk Ngurrngurrudjba - My country is Yellow Waters. Aye djenj ngare - I am going fishing. Aye Cooinda are - I am going to Cooinda. Anang mulil ginga nawern - I saw many crocodiles, lots of them. Aye amarnebolkdjare Ubirr - I like that place Ubirr. Are awurlebme - I'm going to swim. Ad bininj arringeibun gunj - We Aboriginal people call Kangaroo 'gunj'.
Want to learn more about Kakadu’s languages? Visit the Bininj Gunwok website
Kakadu is rich in bush foods, if you know where to look. Here we list some of our favourites. Find our more on an Aboriginal tour.
Fruit and vegetable food
We call it: Anme
This includes honey and ant eggs.
Kakadu plum | Terminalia ferdinandiana
We call it: Anmorlak
This is also called billygoat plum. In Gunumeleng season, the tree starts flowering, providing nectar for birds, bees and bats. In Banggerreng season the small green fruits are good to eat and a great source of vitamin C.
Red bush apple | Syzygium suborbiculare
We call it: Andjarduk
We throw sticks up into the tall trees if the ripe apples haven’t fallen to the ground already. Andjarduk are ripe in the wet season. They start fruiting in Gunumeleng.
Black currant bush | Antidesma ghaesembilia
We call it: Andjurrugumarlba
Lots of berries grow on these small trees and shrubs near freshwater streams during Gudjewg, our monsoon season. When they’re black and ripe they are delicious to eat. We also boil them up to extract the vibrant purple colour, using it to make baskets from pandanus and kurrajong fibres.
Water lily | Nymphea violacea
We call it: Andem
The edible stems of the water lily are called Anbardmo. These hollow green flower stems are juicy and taste a little like celery sticks.
The root tuber and its edible seeds are called Mabala. We dig up the fleshy roots in Gurrung season. The roots contain starchy seeds that we grind into a paste and then form into small cakes. We bake the cakes in the ground oven that we call Gungerri, wrapped up in lily leaves and paperbark.
Meat and fish
We call it: Gunganj (meat) and djeni (fish)
Barramundi | Lates calcarifer
We call it: Namarngorl
The young male fish live upstream in freshwater. When they’re old enough to mate, they travel back into the estuaries where they were born. We cook them whole on hot coals.
Saratoga | Scleropages jardini
We call it: Guluibirr
When we cook Guluibirr, we stuff the gutted fish with paperbark leaves to add flavour.
Freshwater mussel | Velesunio angasi
We call it: Gurruk
Freshwater mussels bury themselves in the mudbanks of creeks as they dry up. We look for little holes along the muddy banks and pull them out.
Our local Aboriginal culture has a set of social behaviours and customs which are considered good manners.
- Traditionally, Aboriginal people (Bininj/Mungguy) do not greet each other every time they meet. However, we are used to non-Aboriginal people doing so and may expect a 'hello'
- Many Bininj/Mungguy do not use personal names as freely as non-Aboriginal people do and we often address each other by kinship terms
- Bininj/Mungguy appreciate privacy. It is good manners not to take photographs of us without permission
- Some Bininj/Mungguy find constant eye contact uncomfortable
- In Bininj/Mungguy culture it is important to listen carefully and consider the response carefully before giving an answer
- It is polite to say goodbye when leaving. Our word for goodbye is 'Bobo' (pronounced bor bor)
- Show respect by not entering restricted areas. They may be sacred sites, ceremonial sites, burial grounds or even someone's home