Sign languages in Central Australia


The Iltyem-iltyem project is part of the Division of Research, Teaching and Learning at Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. It is funded by the Commonwealth Government’s Indigenous Languages Support Program (ILS).


The project has been made possible through a partnership between Batchelor Institute and Dr Jenny Green, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne. Dr Green’s postdoctoral work is supported by the Australian Research Council and the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Program (ELDP). The recordings made by the Iltyem-iltyem project are archived at the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project.

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The Iltyem-iltyem project acknowledges the valuable contribution by sign language consultants from the following community teams:

Ti Tree – Anmatyerr and Warlpiri

April Pengart Campbell, Clarrie Kemarr Long, Eileen Pwerrerl Campbell, Molly Napurrurla Presley, June Nakamarra Ross, Marie Nakamarra Long, Gayle Pengart Campbell, Seraphina Presley

Wilora – Anmatyerr and Kaytetye

Janie Mpetyane, Gracie Mpetyan, Hilda Ngamperle, Amy Ngamperle, Elsie Numina, Eileen Mpetyane, Rachel Dinnie, Lucy Price

Yuelamu – Anmatyerr

Jack Cook, Lily Stafford, Patsy Morton, David McCormack, Rosina McCormack

Utopia – Anmatyerr and Alyawarr

Katie Kemarr Morton, Mary Kemarr Morton, Lena Pwerl, Lena Skinner, Mavis Penangk, Rosie Ngwarray Kunoth, Dorothy Kemarr Kunoth, Lucky Kngwarray

Tjukurla – Ngaanyatjarra

Lizzie Ellis

Other contributors:

Project linguists: Dr Jenny Green, University of Melbourne, Gail Woods, Margaret Carew

Website design and development: Ben Foley

Project management: Margaret Carew

Images and artworks:

Camera: Jenny Green, Margaret Carew

Illustrations from the IAD Press Picture Dictionary series are used with permission from the Institute of Aboriginal Development and the individual artists – Jenny Green, Jenny Taylor and Christine Bruderlin.

Photographs: Margaret Carew and Jenny Green, unless acknowledged otherwise

Thankyou to:

Ti Tree school staff and students

Yuelamu school staff and students

Batchelor Institute Division of Research, Teaching and Learning

Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs

Peter Stephenson (Batchelor Institute, Division of Research, Teaching and Learning)

David Nash (Australian National University)

David Wilkins

Nick Thieberger (University of Melbourne)

Adam Schembri (Latrobe University)

David Nathan (ELDP)


We wish to also acknowledge the compilers of the following dictionaries, and the people who contributed their knowledge to them. We have used them as resources for sign identifications and speech translations.

Glass, A., & Hackett, D. (2003). Ngaanyatjarra-Ngaatjatjarra to English dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.

Green, J. (2003). Central Anmatyerr Picture Dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.

Green, J. (2009). Central and Eastern Anmatyerr to English Dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.

Turpin, M., & Ross, A. (2012). Kaytetye to English Dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press.

The Warlpiri Dictionary Project and Kirrkirr.