About the Digital Language Shell

This project was funded by the federal government’s Office of Learning and Teaching.

In 2015, Charles Darwin University was given a Seed grant to develop an online shell to enable Indigenous authorities to teach their language and culture on their own terms to University students.

The project was proposed in response to the limited opportunities for university students to learn Indigenous languages in Australia.

From the announcement of the initial funding grant:

Activating community-based Indigenous language and culture resources for university teaching
Lead institution: Charles Darwin University

Project Leader: Professor Michael Christie

Abstract: There are currently few opportunities available for university students to learn Indigenous languages in Australia. Development of new courses and their delivery requires ongoing engagement with Aboriginal language authorities, as well as sufficient time and funding to properly negotiate the process, and to develop appropriate pedagogies, resources and administration. This project aims to develop a digital ‘shell’ through which Aboriginal language owners can share their languages, histories, art and other knowledge and culture forms with university students, on their own terms via the internet. Australian tertiary students could access on-line study resources, and engage with knowledge authorities, through arrangements negotiated by their own universities. A sample program will be developed in Bininj Kunwok, under the authority of traditional knowledge owners from Western Arnhem Land.

In 2016 a pilot course teaching Kunwinjku language and culture was delivered to over 100 volunteer learners, who gave feedback on their experience. A report on the project is available here.

With the approval of the Bininj Kunwok Language Reference Committee, the original course remains open to people wanting to learn Kunwinjku language and culture. 

At the invitation of ANU, and the additional support of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (through a Transdisciplinary and Innovation Grant), the pilot course is being expanded into a full semester unit for university students. The course will be offered through ANU and Charles Darwin University in 2019.

People interested in receiving updates about the future development of the Bininj Kunwok course should subscribe to the mailing list here

The digital shell is also available for other language groups to adapt to their own purposes. The shell was created using free, open-source materials, and is available at no cost.

For more information, contact us

BK Language Committee
The Bininj Kunwok Language Project Reference Committee at a meeting in Gunbalanya, November 2016


Bininj Kunwok Language Project Reference Committee:

  • Rev Lois Nadjamerrek
  • Jill Nganjmirra
  • Seraine Namundja
  • Donna Nadjamerrek
  • Andrew Manakgu
  • Julie Narndal
  • Roseanne Nawirridj
  • Frank Nadjalaburnburn
  • Cheryl Garnarradj 

Project manager:

  • Cathy Bow

Research Assistant:

  • Marcella Maloney
  • Dr Murray Garde (ANU)

Field officer:

  • Andy Peart

Others who provided assistance at various stages:

  • Professor Michael Christie (CDU)
  • Professor Jane Simpson (ANU)
  • Professor Gillian Wigglesworth (UniMelb)
  • Professor Steven Bird (CDU)
  • Dr Maïa Ponsonnet (UWA)
  • Dr Steve Etherington for permission to use material from his Kunwinjku Kunwok textbook
  • Barbara White (CDU)
  • Hina Siddiqui
  • Michael Lawrence-Taylor
  • Alexandra Marley
  • All the volunteer learners who participated in the pilot project in 2016