Background

There are over 800 Australian Indigenous languages, and most are no longer spoken. 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 text and images of original documents. There is nothing like this currently available.

The Nyingarn Project began in mid-2021, building on our experience in the digital Daisy Bates work. Nyingarn is a 3-year Australian Research Council funded project that will provide digital access to early sources of Australia’s Indigenous languages, using various ways to turn images of manuscripts into text, including Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and crowdsourcing transcription (using DigiVol). The team have been working to identify source manuscripts in state and national partner institutions, develop metadata systems, and build the online access platform. Our team include chief investigators from the ANU, UQueensland, Latrobe, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide Universities, and the project is guided by an Indigenous Steering Committee.