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Date:September 06, 2013

Iltyem-iltyem: a new resource for Indigenous sign languages of Central Australia


Photo by David Hancock

Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education is proud to launch an online resource of Central Australian sign languages, available at

This project is a partnership between Batchelor Institute, the Ti Tree community language team, and Dr Jenny Green of the Research Unit for Indigenous Language (RUIL) at the University of Melbourne. Sign languages are in daily use in Arandic communities of Central Australia. They are a highly valued form of communication used alongside speech, gesture and drawing practices.

Anwernenh akaltyanthek iltyem-iletyemek angerrepat mapel, anwernek imperl-alhek. Anengkerrant alkenty ina rrkwek angerrepat mapel ant hand-em over-ilerlapetyart, passing on anwernek. Lyet anwern want-em-errem akwerek pass em on-erretyek. We want to website-wern arrernerl anwernekenh angkety so they can iltyem-iltyem yanhek akaltyerrerl.

The old people taught us sign language; they handed it down to us. They held that knowledge from the Dreaming and they handed it over and passed it on to us. Now we want to pass it on to our children. We want to put our language on a website so that the children can learn sign language.Janie Pwerrerl Long, Ti Tree School

The pilot phase of this project has involved the following signers at Ti Tree: April Pengart Campbell, Clarrie Kemarr Long, Eileen Pwerrerl Campbell, Molly Napurrurla Presley, Janie Pwerrerl Long, June Nakamarra Ross, Marie Nakamarra Long, Kwementyay Pengart Campbell and Seraphina Presley. The project linguists are Dr Jenny Green, University of Melbourne, Gail Woods and Margaret Carew. The website was designed and developed by Ben Foley. The website contains several hundred clips that are available for public view. Users can register for free and browse across different categories of signs, such as kinship, animals and plants. Users can also search for using local languages and English. The website design allows for easy upload of new material, and this makes it available for other community teams to contribute sign language material if they wish.

This project was funded by the Australian Government Indigenous Languages Support Programme, the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Documentation Programme and the Australian Research Council. It is managed by the Research Division at Batchelor Institute.