Help us save Yolŋu Sign Language

Australia leads the world in the loss of Indigenous languages.[1]
Yolŋu Sign Language (YSL) is an endangered Indigenous Language.
Senior Australian of the year 2012 Laurie Baymarrwaŋa worked for nearly a century to ‘give language back to the children’.

[See link below to learn more about Baymarrwaŋa’s commitment to save Indigenous languages.]

Help us honour Baymarrwaŋa’s vision and give The Illustrated Handbook of Yolŋu Sign Language of North East Arnhem Land back to the children of North East Arnhem Land.
YSL is not a signed version of the locally spoken language but an alternate language for hearing Yolŋu and the primary language of Deaf Yolŋu people. With a rich ancestral heritage in dance, ritual and kinship YSL is used when speech is culturally avoided during mourning or near sacred objects, in ceremonies, and over distance and stealth in hunting. YSL is really good for secret silent communication and easy to learn.
The handbook contains over five hundred signs in striking full colour sequential photos showing movement, path, hand shapes, and an easy to use guide for learning. It illustrates the vocabulary, structure, grammar and conventions of YSL, with captions and text in Yolŋu and in English and with a concise history and grammar.

We have taken over ten thousand photographs in this collaboration between Yolŋu Dr Elaine Maypilama, Professor Marie Carla Dany Adone, Bentley James and The Yan-nhaŋu Dictionary Team. Hosted by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Managers Alliance Inc.  (NAILSMA), with your support we can design, print, and distribute it to schools, homelands, community organisations, libraries and to those who have already kindly given. We have $12,000 so far and need to raise a further $38,000 by ‘International Day of Sign Languages’ on September 23, 2019.

Please help us honour Baymarrwaŋa’s vision to save this priceless ancestral inheritance of Indigenous language. Donations over one hundred dollars will receive a copy of this magnificent handbook.

More information:


[1] NILS (2005) National Indigenous Languages Survey Report, pp.24. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (FATSIL), Department of Communications Information Technology and the Arts. Canberra.


  • Pene Charles
    • $100 
    • 4 yrs


Bentley James

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