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A nice reversal: Mount Nameless has got its name back. The Western Australian Government has adopted dual naming guidelines. (The good people of the Geographic Names Boards. Hurrah hurrah!) The Shire of Ashburton agreed to the mountain being called both Mount Nameless (apparently this name was bestowed by a Hamersley Iron survey team in the early 1960s), and Jarndunmunha, the name used by the Eastern Guruma people. (The people are also known as Kurrama*).

[Further update, you can see a picture of Jarndunmunha/Mount Nameless and more discussion at
Filipiniana & Cunning Linguistics
[ further to further update, Piers Kelly has sent a photo of the long long view from the top [.jpg]]

The Western Australian Lands Minister, Michelle Roberts, is quoted as saying:
"There are probably hundreds of traditional Aboriginal names, virtually unknown by the general community, for features such as mountains, lakes and rivers that currently have a well-known European name."

'Hundreds'? Wrong ball-park.

Look at (publicity alert!) The Land is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous origin in Australia (TLM). For some language groups hundreds of placenames are recorded; for others, more than 3,000 are recorded (e.g.Peter Sutton's work on Cape York). How many place-names are recorded depends on the topography and the recorder, and on how long the Indigenous people have endured colonisation. But even in the desert country, there can be thousands of names recorded - as in the 1904 map of north-eastern South Australia prepared by Henry Hillier which contains nearly 2,500 place-names from at least fourteen different language groups (see Philip Jones' paper in TLM).

And then there's the pronunciation. Sigh. The ABC reported that the Member for the Central Kimberley-Pilbara, Tom Stephens, says it will provide a challenge in pronunciation for the town. Unfortunately the ABC report gave Joe Reader/Listener no clue as to how the name is to be pronounced. In restoring names from Indigenous languages, it is crucial that the public be shown from the start how to pronounce the names - otherwise speakers will be distressed by mispronunciations (and then they often blame the spelling system and the linguist...). See Nick Reid's article in TLM.

[UPDATE: See Sally Dixon's comment, for how to pronounce it - thanks Sally!]

Tom Stephens' heart's in the right place though:

"I'm sure that the township will view this with great interest and it will be a source of great comment and no doubt some fun, but some real opportunities to embrace, I think it's a real display of a commitment to reconciliation."

There's a book with information on Guruma land and language, The Guruma story = Guruma-yharntu wangka: IAD Press, 2001, told by the Guruma Elders Group, led by Peter Stevens, and collected and edited by Loreen Brehaut and Anna Vitenbergs.


As a former employee of Hamersley Iron, and (at that time) frequent visitor to the Pilbara, I am pleased to hear that Mt Nameless is no longer nameless. Welcome Jarndunmunha (however you are pronounced)!

Just returned from Jarndunmunha this week. You can drive right up to the top and the view is lovely. This comment from Yinhawangka elder Lola Young is printed on the wall of the Karijini visitor's centre: "You know, the non-Aboriginal people named the biggest hill around here, at Tom Price, Mount Nameless. They didn't ask the Aboriginal people here if that place had a name already. And it had. Its name for thousands of years has been Jarndunmunha; there's nothing nameless about that. I think it is a matter of respect of cultures".
Distressingly there is a gorge in Karijini labelled 'Hancock Gorge' on official maps. What are we to expect next? Rose Porteous Creek? Andrew Forrest Forest?

Sally here from Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre. FYI Wangka Maya also has a Kurrama word list and sketch grammar available.
Here is the pronunciation guide from that publication relevent to Jarndunmunha.
j as the 'j' in 'jetty'
a as the 'a' in 'father', but shorter
rn as the 'n' in 'night' but with the tip of the tongue curled backwards
d between the 't' in 'tickle' and 'd' in 'dingo'
u as the 'u' in 'pudding'
m as in the 'm' in 'mouse'
nh as the 'n' in 'night' but with the blade of the tongue against the back of the top front teeth

Oh and main stress will fall on the first syllable and secondary stress on the third syllable.

I felt the same as Piers upon seeing the name "Hancock Gorge". So....certificate of participation and encouragement goes to the Forrest family who ran Minderoo Station, along the Ashburton River, for many many many years (Don't know if they got it going though - I assume they did). "Minderoo" I think is in fact "Mindurru" (u - like in pudding; rr - trilled)which is the Thalanyji name for the Ashburton River.

Also, Highly Commended goes to the people who established the current Onslow township site: Beadon Creek (along the edge of Onslow) may have come from the Thalanyji name for Onslow "Birdan" (retroflex d and a - as in "hut"). However, I think "Minderoo" and "Beadon" are only officially recognised for the station and creek (oh and Beadon Bay Hotel) and not at all for the Ashburton River or Onslow. As far as I know. The Geographic Names Board hasn't made it that far yet.

And just off on a tangent of some of my unchecked observations: there's everyday usage. In one media thing for Jarndunmunha (can't remember which one), I have a very vague recollection of a Kurrama someone being quoted as saying that people were so used to saying Mt Nameless that they were probably going to continue to call it that. Or words which I interpreted to that effect. Which reminded me of Ngukurr. Which was (as I recall) referred to as "Ngukurr" (but pronounced "nooka") by the non-indigenous people and mostly as "Roper (Mission)" by the Indigenous people. Although they too sometimes said "nooka" when talking to non-Indigenous people. I don't know if this observation is just my perception or a more shared observation. Back in Onslow, I'm pretty sure everyone refers to the town as "Onslow". I think I've only heard the middle-aged and older Thalanyji people refer to the Ashburton as "Mindurru". Not sure what others say. But enough of this tangent.

Regardless of who uses what in their everyday language, I think the key issues here are about respect and acknowledgement of Indigenous knowledge and custodianship - a very important factor in reconciliation. And hats off to ANYONE who has at least attempted to acknowledge Indigenous custodianship in any way. Cos it's a step or twenty ahead of those who haven't and .....I just thought I'd make a token gesture to positive reinforcement :)

Just for the record - I have taken some personal satisfaction in being the original instigator of official recognition for this Aboriginal placename. "Nameless" had always offended me, although I had detected no great local appetite for change. "Nameless" having in turn been embeded - amongst other things - as the name for the local town's annual community Festival in Tom Price. As an MP for Kimberley & Pilbara for over 25 years now, I have had just a few sucesses with official name changes. Working with a colleague back in the mid-1970s, I managed to "shepherd" the change from Turkey Creek to "Warmun" to reflect what I heard was the Gidja Community's word for their creek-side home in the East Kimberley. A pity my linguistically untrained ear and personal orthography has missed out on what appears to me now as an extra syablable or two, where I now hear something closer to "Worrarmarn" when the locals call the name for their much-loved water hole in the creek near their home place. Most recently I was much more careful in securing the sound and a professional orthography for Jarndunmunah. The good news is that both changes appear to have "stuck" without any major problems or hiccups. Local indigenous people clearly take pleasure and pride in the changes. And the wider community seems to enjoy the cultural journey and discovery that such name changes bring - eventually! Cheers. Tom Stephens, MLA
ps I am still gently looking for the original names for the nearby features known fairly recently as Mounts Bruce and Sheila! What a strangely unimaginative trio had been temporarily embedded in the nomenclature for the peaks across this most beautiful and somewhat remote range!

Good on you! It is brilliant to have the history of these changes. And to learn that it has been a happy experience for the local people (renaming and dual naming has been fraught in some places). So let's hope some reader can search out the names for Bruce & Sheila....

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