Being language: Roles, responsibility and respect in Ngaanyatjarra society

“A family talk”, iPad image by Joella Butler, Tjukurla Community, Western Australia, 2013.

CASS Annual Public Lecture on Future Directions in Indigenous Research 2015

This lecture will be followed by a performance by musical artists Biliirr and a reception: 6.30-8.00pm.

Please register via Eventbrite for the event and performance.

How you speak and what you talk about reveals much about your society and its worldview, how you manage knowledge, what you consider beautiful, and how you relate to others. 

Drawing on a large collection of recordings of verbal arts from the Western Desert region of Central Australia, Ellis will paint a lively picture of the multimodal communicative repertoires used by her Ngaanyatjarra/Ngaatjatjarra people. She, Green, Kral and Simpson will focus on the manner in which narrative practices reveal and instil core cultural values and impart knowledge to the next generation.


  • Elizabeth  Marrkilyi  Ellis - ARC Discovery Indigenous Fellow, School of Literature Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University
  • Dr Inge Kral -  Research Fellow (Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research/School of Literature Languages and Linguistics, Australian National University
  • Professor Jane Simpson - Chair of Indigenous Linguistics/ Deputy Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, Australian National University
  • Dr Jennifer Green - Postdoctoral Fellow, ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language,  School of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne


Biliirr: Nardi Simpson, Lucy Simpson and Jilda Andrews

Nardi Simpson, Lucy Simpson and Jilda Andrews are three sisters who invoke their Yuwaalaraay country through a dynamic mix of audio, visual, text and language. Their work as standalone cultural practitioners is well established in various fields; Nardi as singer-songwoman with the groups Stiff Gins, Freshwater and the Spirit of Things Collective, Lucy as textiles designer and owner of the Gaawaa Miyay design company and Jilda’s research into museums and as a museum practitioner. When they come together as Biliirr (‘bill-ear’, black cockatoo), they offer audiences a gift of country through song that will leave you feeling like you’ve been on a journey.


This lecture and performance are free and open to the public. Please RSVP via Eventbrite.


Date and Times


The Common Room, University House, Balmain Crescent, ANU Campus



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