Kayardild Culture

Page Index

The content of this page was developed from the research of Dr. Nicholas Evans, Dr. Baden Hughes, Ms. Cathy Bow
and Dr. Steven Bird.


The Kayardild people traditional lived on the South Wellesley Islands, which consist of Bentinck Island, Sweers Island and several other small islands. Because their homeland was insular, Kayardild culture developed in isolation, with minimal influence from the outside world. Their traditional lifestyle enabled them to subsist on what the islands alone provided, and there was therefore no need for trade with neighboring groups.

For example, while neighboring tribes primarily used tools made of stone, the Kayardild used tools made of shell (a plentiful resource in their native environment). Furthermore, they used only one type of watercraft (mangrove crafts), while neighboring tribes typically used canoes as well. The spears used by the Kayardild are also very unique, and considered characteristic of the people; the points are made of hardwood and the shafts are constructed of light wood.


The Kayardild diet also reflects a history of island inhabitance. Dominated by sea turtles, dugong and turle eggs, the traditional diet consists primarily of sea foods. Tribes closer to the hinterland also ate goannas, snakes, birds and gathered fruits. It was forbidden to cook land foods on the same fire as sea foods, or to eat land foods and sea foods in the same meal.

Spiritual beliefs

As so many Australian aboriginal groups do, the Kayardild believed that ancestral beings created everything, then became parts of the landscape. The period of creation is known as Yuujbanda (the first time, the old time). The major tribal ceremonies are individual rites of passage, such as birth, betrothal and circumcision. Like many Australian aboriginal groups, the Kayardild do not use the names of the recently deceased: the name becomes unutterable, and is replaced by the term murdinyi.

Follow the path of the Kayardild data

  1. Get Started Summary of Kayardild conversion
  2. Digitize Audio: Audio page (Classroom)
  3. Interlinearize Text: IGT page (Classroom)
  4. Build Lexicon: Lexicon page (Classroom)
  5. Collect Metadata: Metadata page (Classroom)

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Kayardild Culture
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