The National Library's Manuscripts collection contains original written records relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their languages.

These records provide a glimpse of the approximately 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages of Australia.

This guide has been created to assist in identifying specific language group material in these records.

How to use this guide

The language groups listed in this research guide are first sorted by State and Territory (although there will be some overlap), and then arranged alphabetically.

Below the name of each language group is a list of manuscripts which contain language material relating to that particular group, as well as a brief description of the contents, e.g:


Each entry in this research guide is linked directly to its respective catalogue record, where the items can be requested. Once requested, items can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Spelling of Indigenous language group names

The spelling of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language group names has been taken from the AIATSIS Thesauri, Pathways. AIATSIS also assigns each language group a unique reference code, eg (S73). The language codes are useful for regular users of the AIATSIS collections.

What if I can't visit the Library?

If you are unable to visit the Library you can order a copy of manuscript material through our Copies Direct service and it will be sent to you in the post or via email. The information contained in this guide will assist you to complete the Copies Direct order form. Some manuscripts do have restrictions on copying, National Library staff will alert you if there is an issue with your order.

Have you uncovered language material in the National Library which isn't listed in this guide?

If so, we'd love to hear from you so we can add your valuable knowledge to these pages.

You can contact us via our Ask a Librarian Service or visit us in person in our Special Collections Reading Room.