Category Archives: Features

Celebrating Christmas in Indigenous languages

If you search for ‘Christmas’ in the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, you get an interesting mix of results. 

If you’re looking for something simple, there are two Kriol books on the topic. Samting speshul tells a simple version of the Christmas story, and Krismis Stori tells an even more basic version – even if you don’t know Kriol you can probably follow the text. Both of them have recordings as well (click ‘Listen’ above the cover)


Want to sing some Christmas carols in Indigenous languages? In Burarra Manakay (songs in Burarra language of Maningrida) we have Silent Night, Little Baby Jesus and one called Jemberr.

And also from Maningrida, you can try Nakébba Kaya-ramíngana, Kóma Wíba, which is sung to the tune of ‘Away in a Manger’ and some other Christmas songs in Ndjébbana language in the songbook Barra-róddjiba Barra-mayáwaya.


The Yuendumu CEC Christmas songbook is mostly in English, but there’s one song in Warlpiri called Wurulypa Munga – do you know how it goes?


If you like making Christmas decorations, there’s another Kriol book called Sambala ting bla Krismis where you can learn to make cards and stars and angels. 




We also have some full translations of the original Christmas story from the Bible, including Tyitheth Renharl Atnyenew (Jesus was born) in Alyawarr language from Central Australia.

There’s also one in Gupapuyŋu language from NE Arnhem Land called Garray Dhawal-guyaŋana (The Birth of Jesus).

Moving away from the traditional story, we have a lovely illustrated tale of animals decorating a Christmas tree in Kulilypuru in Pitjantjatjara language.

Also in Pitjantjatjara there’s an old photo book from 1983 of when Mama Kritjimitji came to Areyonga (guess who that is?)

And finally, even out in desert communities, kids love dressing up to do the Christmas story, and colouring in pictures about the event. Check out Christmas Irrwelty to see how they did it in Irrultja in 2001.



If you’ve got stories in the Indigenous languages of the Northern Territory that you’d like to share, contact us!

You can also check out these media stories about our Christmas collection from 2015:

from CDU Media:

and from SBS/NITV

Happy Christmas from everyone at the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages!

LAALbot now on Twitter

The wonderful Tim Sherratt has produced a simple guide to creating a Twitter-bot drawing information from Trove and posting it to your Twitter account. Not being a programmer myself, I was curious to know if I could build a bot to post an item from the Living Archive every day.

The whole process probably took only a few hours, from setting up a new Twitter account (, getting a Trove API key, working my way through the instructions on Glitchsome trips up the garden path (switching from a trove-title-bot to a trove-collection-bot) and working out what I did wrong when I got error messages.  My first efforts selected random items from the complete CDU Library repository, so I had to ask for help to narrow the range to just the items in the Living Archive collection, to which Tim gave a helpful response. A little bit of customising the text (from “Another interesting item” to “Check this out from @living_archive!”) and creating a cron-job to tweet daily, and we’re in business!

The LAALbot gives the title and cover image of a book from the Living Archive, and links it to the record in Trove. So you don’t go directly to the item in the Archive, but can get there indirectly via Trove (go down to the green View online button and click on the Freely available link to the CDU repository). Twitter has an unfortunate habit of offering to ‘translate’ from a completely unrelated language, but I haven’t figured out how to switch that off.

If my coding skills went beyond ‘dummies’ level, I’d love to add some detail, for example identifying the language of the item, or adding some other metadata. Any computer scientist or amateur programmer interested in volunteering?

So if you’d like to receive a new book every day from the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, follow @LAAL_bot now on Twitter! Thanks so much to @wragge for making the process possible for novice coders.

Yolngu language video

Teacher linguist from Milingimbi school, Elizabeth Milmilany (Räkay) shares about the Living Archive project and why it’s important for Yolŋu language and culture.

Watch this video (less than 90 seconds long) to hear her speaking in Gupapuyŋu language (we’ve added English subtitles as well). There are two versions – they’re exactly the same but the first one uses less data (7Mb) and the second one is higher quality so uses more data (22Mb).



Welcome to 2015

The Living Archive project is about to enter its fourth year – not bad for something that was originally funded for 1 year! Careful spending and a second successful funding application has allowed us to continue the project over a longer period, and do so much more than we could have done in a single year.

Some statistics:

At the end of 2014 we had 3115 items uploaded to CDU Library’s eSpace server, of which 1353 are publicly available through the LAAL website. The public items represent only 43% of the total, and one of our goals for this year is to increase that percentage. The main reason for this is the difficulty of identifying and tracking down the creators of each item to get their permission to make the items public. We’ve already collected over 600 signatures, yet there are still nearly 1000 additional names to find. Some items don’t have any information about the creators, so they can’t be made public without someone giving permission, but who do we ask?

  • Number of languages represented: 30
  • Number of communities represented: 27
  • Language with the most items publicly available: Pintupi-Luritja (189 items)
  • Language with the most items uploaded: Warlpiri (517 items)
  • Language with the highest proportion of uploaded items made public: Maung (80%)

More items are being uploaded regularly – some have already gone up this week, and more will follow soon. The process takes a while to ensure that all the information is correctly recorded and uploaded, and we still find errors even after careful checking! If you find an error, feel free to let us know.

Comparison figures for the end of each year so far:

year uploaded public
2012 436 89
2013 1453 645
2014 3115 1353

Looking back at our plans for 2014, it’s nice to see that we achieved most of them. Some of our achievements include:

  • revamping the website to include a more intuitive map page and a separate project site where we can post other information
  • developing a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter an efficient means of sharing information quickly, as well as a record of some of our activities
  • having public ‘launches’ in both Canberra and Darwin which attracted a very positive response
  • adding materials identified through the ‘Search and Rescue‘ strand, particularly through the workshop held at Batchelor Institute in July. There are already 134 items from 3 languages, with more coming soon
  • having our archive added to OLAC and ANDS and accessible through Trove

The to-do list for 2015 looks enormous already, but we’re looking forward to developing the Archive further, with input from our users.

Here are a few things we have planned for this year:

  • our LAAL Reader app to allow mobile users to download whole collections for use offline
  • an API which will allow users to log in to the site and made changes. This will include visiting some communities to test the functionality
  • working out how to make information about items not yet public available to users
  • engaging with the academic community to encourage researchers to use the archive
  • working more closely with remote schools and others to find creative ways to use the materials in the classroom
  • update our language map with feedback from community members and other experts
  • more writing – we had two academic papers published last year, with two more due out soon, and two more currently under review. We have ideas for several more, the challenge is finding the time to write them!
  • more permissions
  • streamlining processes for adding audio files and e-book files to the archive
  • continue to try to update codes for Yolŋu language names in ISO 639-3 to better reflect language naming practices in current use
  • sustainability audit to work out how best to maintain the archive once our funding expires at the end of 2015

Thanks for helping us make this a ‘living archive’ by engaging with us as we develop it, and by using the materials in the archive.

Welcome to 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a huge year in the Living Archive project.

We’ll be aiming to complete many of the activities of Stage I of the project including

  • Materials
    • finish processing digitised files
    • finish checking and uploading to eSpace
    • prioritising additional records for digitisation and uploading
    • arrange export of metadata to OLAC
    • add audio and ebooks
  • Website
    • redo home page layout
    • create content site for updates, news, publicity, etc
    • make more records public as permissions are obtained
    • fix ‘Warning’ page
    • create ‘good faith’ notice
    • insert notes about rights holders
    • insert caveat about photos of deceased people
    • tidy up some inconsistencies in metadata
  • Publications
    • three papers currently under review
      • ACSA, LDC, Australian Archivist
    • four papers in preparation
      • launch booklet, Paradisec, user evaluation, technical paper
  • Other activities
    • launch the archive
    • negotiate licensing with NT Department of Ed
    • discuss licensing with other sources/publishers
    • adjust ISO codes if our changes are accepted

At the end of 2013 we had:

  • 1453 items uploaded to eSpace
  • 616 items publicly available on the website
  • 529 items ready to upload
  • approximately 1500 items still in preparation
  • several sources still untapped (other libraries, private collections)

Stage II will be exciting and we’re looking forward to working with our new partners

  • Batchelor Institute
  • Northern Territory Library
  • Catholic Education Office

and our existing partners

  • NT Department of Education
  • Australian National University

We’ll be meeting together early in February to plan how to get things moving.

Strap yourselves in!