'The Aboriginal Language of Sydney' by Steele, Jeremy Macdonald.

Scope and Content

A Master of Arts (Research) Thesis (plus accompanying CD) submitted to the Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies Division of Society, Culture, Media and Philosophy College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney. A partial reconstruction of the indigenous language of Sydney based on the notebooks of William Dawes, written around 1790-1791, informed by other records of the Sydney and surrounding languages to c1905.

Administrative / Biographical History

Born in 1938, a fourth-generation Australian of English descent, Jeremy Steele grew up in Western Australia. In the 1950s the family moved to Italy, where he learnt Italian. This sparked an interest in languages, including Egyptian hieroglyphs. For university entrance, he resumed school study of French by correspondence course, and completed a BA degree at the University of Keele in 1962. In 1969 he returned to Australia and took up a job in publishing at the University of Sydney.

In the late 1970s, Jeremy Steele began research into Sydney Aboriginal words based on accounts by Watkin Tench and other members of the First Fleet. (The First Fleet is the term used to describe the 11 ships which set sail from the UK in 1787 to establish the first European colony in New South Wales in 1788, marking the beginnings of transportation to Australia). Steele's first direct conversation with an Aboriginal Australian took place in August 1985 in Daly Waters, Northern Territory, and it was around this time that he became aware of the Sydney language notebooks compiled by a Royal Marine on the First Fleet, Lieutenant William Dawes (MS 41645) held at SOAS.

In 1999, following retirement from the University of Sydney, Jeremy began to pursue full-time study of the Sydney language. In 2002 he produced an introductory 16pp "Tourist's Guide to the Sydney Aboriginal Language" and 2 years later embarked on an MA degree course at Macquarie University, culminating in an MA thesis on the subject, focusing very much on the Dawes' manuscript. Jeremy later collaborated with David Nathan from the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Project based at SOAS to produce a facsimile reproduction of the the Dawes' notebooks together with transcripts.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

Handlist available

Geographical Names