Australia: Noongar Translation


Bible Society Australia is committed to helping Indigenous Australian’s Open The Bible in their heart languages. Bible Society is supporting the Noongar people in the south-west of Western Australia translate the Bible into their language.

Since 1788, over 155 of the estimated 300 or more languages first spoken in Australia have disappeared, and the remaining 110 are critically endangered. In 2005, the National Indigenous Language Survey said, “all of Australia’s Indigenous languages face an uncertain future if immediate action and care are not taken.” It is widely acknowledged that the Bible is the most important source of usable connected discourses in endangered Australian languages. Translating the Bible into Indigenous languages has always been, and remains, critically important. They are the heart languages of many people. A heart language is the language a person thinks and dreams in.

Many Indigenous people speak some English, however much of what they read in English versions of the Bible can be confusing and complicated. Dr John Harris, Bible Society Australia’s Translation Consultant, says, “Even though Noongar people read English, it’s not the language to which their emotions, their feelings and identity are attached. Even those who don’t speak Noongar well know they are Noongar people. The English Bible is the language of the invader.”

Noongar is the official language of the Aboriginal people of the south-west of Western Australia. Many Noongar people of today grew up speaking English in school and Noongar at home. The children who were taken away – the Stolen Generations – were forbidden from speaking Noongar. Speaking Noongar reinforces group identity; it is a statement of who Noongar people are. The Noongar people are working hard to restore their language; it speaks to the core of their being, their culture and their understanding of themselves. It is the wisdom of their hearts.


  • 155 of the estimated 300 or more languages first spoken in Australia have disappeared
  • 110 languages are critically endangered of the 145 languages left
  • 443 Noongar speakers (2016 ABS census)

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