The Digital Daisy Bates Page

Daisy Bates (1859-1951) was a remarkable ethnographer who spent all of her adult life living in Aboriginal communities around parts of Western Australia and South Australia. Her priceless collection of written records documents a great deal about the language and culture of the many different people she worked with. Her 'Native Tribes of Western Australia' (White 1985) is a detailed collection about Aboriginal people of WA. Significantly, it is an edited version of all of her notes except the section containing thousands of pages dealing with Aboriginal languages.

In collaboration with the National Library of Australia (NLA), this page makes accessible this extremely valuable collection of over 23,000 pages of wordlists of Australian languages, originally recorded by Daisy Bates in the early 1900s, made up of the original questionnaires and around 4,000 pages of typescripts. This will enable reuse of the collection by Aboriginal people searching for their own heritage languages and by other researchers. The dataset has been constructed according to the Text Encoding Initiative TEI: P5 Guidelines, to embody both a facsimile of the original set of manuscripts and a structured dataset for complex research questions.

Access to these historical records of Australian languages will benefit from the interdisciplinary cooperation of linguists and musicologists with technology experts and with the premier collecting agency, the National Library of Australia.

The output of this project has been a web page with the text of all the vocabularies, each linked to the image of the source document.

Please cite this work as:

Nick Thieberger. 2017. Digital Daisy Bates. Web resource.

These pages are made available under a Creative Commons CC-BY licence

You can also cite this work by reference to this paper: Nick Thieberger. 2016. Daisy Bates in the digital world. In Austin, Peter K., Harold Koch and Jane Simpson (eds) Language, land and song: Studies in honour of Luise Hercus. London: EL Publishing.

The project has been part of Nick Thieberger's ARC Future Fellowship (FT140100214). Contact him for any queries about the Digital Bates project.

Nick Thieberger and Conal Tuohy. 2017. From Small to Big Data: paper manuscripts to RDF triples of Australian Indigenous Vocabularies. In Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Computational Methods for Endangered Languages.


Isobel White. 1985. Native Tribes of Western Australia Canberra: National Library of Australia

This project has been supported by: the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne; the Australian Research Council; the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language.

Thanks to Conal Tuohy for scripting and general TEI implementation. Thanks to Lauren Gawne and Jill Vaughan for their work on renaming files.