The Traditional Names of Australia’s Capital Cities

uluru rock formation in central australia

Australia, a land abundant in Indigenous heritage, boasts capital cities steeped in historical significance. Prior to European settlement, these cities were bestowed with names by the Aboriginal peoples who resided on the land for millennia. This article delves into the traditional names of Australia's capital cities, paying homage to the Indigenous roots and cultural diversity that thrives within these vibrant urban centres.


Australia's capital cities have ancient origins that predate European settlement. Indigenous cultures and languages thrived across the continent, each leaving their own mark on the landscape. By exploring the traditional names of these cities, we can acknowledge the enduring connection of Aboriginal peoples to the land and appreciate the rich heritage they bring to the nation.

Canberra - Ngambri and Ngunnawal Country

The capital city of Australia, Canberra, stands on the traditional lands of the Ngambri and Ngunnawal people. The Ngunnawal language refers to the area as Ngambri, meaning "meeting place" or "cleared space." The significance of this name reflects the historical importance of the region as a gathering place for Indigenous communities.

Sydney - Warrane, Gadigal Country

Sydney, the largest city in Australia, was originally known as Warrane in the language of the Gadigal people. The Gadigal were part of the Eora Nation, and their name for the area signifies the "place where the waters meet." This reference reflects the convergence of the ocean and the various waterways that define the city's geography.

Melbourne - Naarm, Wurundjeri Country

The city of Melbourne holds deep Indigenous significance, with its traditional name being Naarm in the language of the Wurundjeri people. As the traditional custodians of the land, the Wurundjeri name refers to the rich and abundant natural resources found in the area. It recognizes the importance of the land as a source of sustenance and spiritual connection.

Brisbane - Mian-jin, Turrbal and Jagera Country

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, has its roots in the traditional lands of the Turrbal and Jagera peoples. In their language, the river upon which the city sits is known as Mian-jin. This name reflects the deep connection Indigenous communities had with the river, its resources, and the surrounding lands.

Perth - Boorloo, Noongar Country

The city of Perth stands on the traditional lands of the Noongar people, who refer to the area as Boorloo. The name translates to "place of the quokka," paying homage to the unique flora and fauna found in the region. It symbolizes the harmonious relationship between the Noongar people and the land they have called home for thousands of years.

Adelaide - Tarndanya, Kaurna Country

Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, lies on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people. In the Kaurna language, the area is known as Tarndanya, which translates to "red kangaroo place." This name evokes the vibrant and diverse landscapes that characterize the region and the significance of the kangaroo in Kaurna culture.

Hobart - Nipaluna, Mouheneener Country

The city of Hobart, located in Tasmania, was originally referred to as Nipaluna by the Mouheneener people. The name translates to "place of the rock," acknowledging the unique geological formations that shape the area. It serves as a reminder of the deep connection Indigenous communities had with the land and its natural features.

Darwin - Garamilla, Larrakia Country

Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territory, resides on the traditional lands of the Larrakia people, who refer to the area as Garamilla. The Larrakia name for the area is synonymous with the city itself, signifying the enduring presence of the Larrakia people and their custodianship over the land.


Australia's capital cities are not only modern urban centers but also places of historical and cultural significance. By embracing the traditional names of these cities, we can pay homage to the Aboriginal peoples who have cared for and shaped the land for countless generations. It is through understanding and respecting these traditional names that we can honor the deep connection between Indigenous cultures and the places we now call our capital cities.

Worldwide Interpreting and Translation, headquartered in Sydney, NSW, acknowledges and pays respects to the Traditional Custodians of the land on which our head office is located. We recognize the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners and custodians of the land and extend our respects to their Elders past, present, and emerging. We honour their ongoing connection to the land and their rich cultural heritage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the traditional names still used alongside the current names?

While the traditional names may not be widely used in everyday conversations, efforts are being made to acknowledge and respect the Indigenous heritage of these cities.

How can we learn more about the Aboriginal cultures associated with these cities?

There are various cultural centres, museums, and community organisations that offer opportunities to learn about Aboriginal cultures and histories in these cities. Additionally, engaging with local Indigenous communities can provide valuable insights and knowledge.

Are there any official acknowledgments of the traditional names?

Some cities incorporate traditional language and place names in public spaces, street signs, and cultural events to honour the Indigenous heritage of the land.

Is it important to use the traditional names?

Using the traditional names of Australia's capital cities helps recognise the deep cultural and historical significance of these places. It fosters respect and understanding of Indigenous cultures and their ongoing connection to the land.

How can we support and engage with the local Aboriginal communities?

Supporting Indigenous-led initiatives, businesses, and organizations, as well as participating in cultural events and programs, can contribute to the recognition and preservation of Aboriginal cultures in these cities.

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