Nyingarn provides access to early language manuscripts


Nyingarn transcribes manuscripts making them more accessible


With community permissions, manuscripts can used for research, language revitalisation and much more …

Nyingarn is an online platform for digitised early sources in Australia’s Indigenous languages. Nyingarn aims to make as many of these manuscript sources available as possible, searchable, and re-usable as textual documents. We use cutting-edge methods for training Optical Character Recognition (OCR) with Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques to automate as much of the conversion to text as possible.

Nyingarn will provide specifications for users to add files after current funding is exhausted, ensuring ongoing use of the infrastructure. This, together with a commitment to open formats for the data, will make the content accessible and available for computational treatment in addition to allowing it to be downloaded for re-use in language teaching programs. An item will only be posted to the site after approval from a relevant language authority.

The word Nyingarn means ‘echidna’ in Noongar. The way an echidna collects ants is an analogy for the collection of documents in this project.

There are over 800 Australian Indigenous languages and most are no longer spoken everyday. For most of them there is very little recorded, and, where there are records, they are often only on paper in a single library. In part, this reflects the destruction of Aboriginal people and societies and the prevailing disregard for Indigenous cultures and languages at the time. There are rare examples of early settlers seeking to understand and record Indigenous languages and this project aims to build a system (Nyingarn – the Nyungar word for echidna) to discover, convert, present, ingest (accessioning items into Nyingarn), and search as many of these written sources in Australia’s Indigenous languages as possible in a new online digital platform with the text and images of the original documents. Our experience with presenting the Bates Online project is that Indigenous people want to have access to and re-use early sources in their languages.

Research outcomes: As with many fields, the creation of primary data is essential to doing good research and Nyingarn will facilitate study of, among many other topics: language change over time; uses and range of biological taxa; distribution of songs over time; variation in languages and the diversity of languages recorded close to first contact; relationships between Indigenous people and first settlers; in addition to a range of unexpected topics that will arise by making previously inaccessible material publicly available and searchable.

Nyingarn is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment, and Facilities grant # LE200100006. The Nyingarn Project has human ethics approval from the University of Melbourne Office of Research Ethics and Integrity (Ref: 2021-22088-20773-6)

Nyingarn respects and acknowledges Australia’s First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways on which we live and work. We acknowledge Elders past, present and emerging.