ECDI Update: June 2022 activities

This is a monthly update about the Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative (ECDI) activities and upcoming events.


  • Simon Haberle is currently on fieldwork on King Island, Tasmania and you can keep up with what he is up to on Twitter –
  • Currently, Nick Evans is in Paris for the opening of the Fondation Cartier exhibition of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s paintings (3 July – 6 November 2022)
  • The Little Kids’ Word List was launched in Alice Springs on May 25. There was a workshop about the Little Kids Learning Languages project followed by the launch. The Little Kids’ Word List is a unique online interactive tool for tracking children’s language development in Eastern & Central Arrernte, Western Arrarnta, Warlpiri and English. It was developed as part of the ARC Future Fellowship project of Carmel O’Shannessy, with collaborators Vanessa Davis and Denise Foster (Tangentyere Research Hub) and Alice Nelson and Jessie Bartlett (Red Dust Role Models).




Seminars, Workshops & Conferences

Keynote lecture for our 2022 Biological Anthropology Seminar Series, 30 June
Islands of the small giants: hominin dispersal to Wallacea and impact on insular megafaunas

This seminar will be held at 4pm on Thursday the 30th of June (AEST) via Dual Delivery. Feel free to attend in person in Room 4.69 of the RSSS Building on the ANU’s Acton Campus or attend online by registering for a Zoom link

First Nations Languages Research Workshop 
11-13 July 2022, Queensland State Archives, Brisbane 
The workshop is part of Queensland State Archives’ (QSA) First Nations Language Project, which aims to support communities and language workers with language revitalisation across Queensland. The Language Research Workshop invites language workers to further their language research, with support of QSA staff, and explore the collection to find connections between language, culture, country and family. 
Find more information here and apply online here.  


Funding opportunities

Support offered for plant entries in Australian languages dictionaries 
Are you compiling a dictionary of an Australian language and need some support with plant/fungus entries? 
I’m a linguist currently working on a project at the Australian National Herbarium (National Collections and Maritime Infrastructure – NCMI) to make its collection more useful to Indigenous communities. One avenue of this is to link Indigenous plant names to vouched specimens in the herbarium.
Plant names do not have one-to-one correspondences across languages and scientific names are somewhat esoteric and are liable to change due to taxonomic reclassification. Likewise, what may be identified as a single species in the Western taxonomy may correspond to different plants in an Indigenous taxonomy.
For example, the Kunwok plant manbardbard refers to grevillea plants that grow in the lowlands, while mandjenkererr refer to grevillea plants in the highlands. Both terms refer to at least two species of grevillea in the Western taxonomy: Grevillea decurrens and G. Heliosperma
Linking a plant name to a physical specimen ensures that despite changes to Western scientific nomenclature or language shift in a community, we have vouched and corroborated connections between plant and knowledge systems. 
If you’re interested in using the National Herbarium or the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) to support your dictionary work, please get in touch! Check out the Noongar Budjar plants and animals encyclopaedia for an example of an ALA/NCMI + language centre collaboration. 
This project is a CSIRO funded post-doc fellowship and will be running until Dec 2023. Email:

Honours project, Ablation study: What level of linguistic detail is needed for word-level modelling? (Australian National University)
As NLP (Natural language processing) tools are expanded to include new languages one of the big bottlenecks is labelled data availability. This issue is particularly acute for low-resource languages. So the question of annotation detail and quality is important. How much detail is needed for supervised learning? Is there a minimum number of labels to capture linguistic patterns? Find more information here


Publications by ECDI

McBride, E., Wallis, L., Hopf, F., Haberle, S., & Dardengo, M. 2022. Demonstrating the potential of amberat middens for understanding late quaternary palaeoenvironments in the Central Pilbara, Western Australia. Quaternary International.

Sterelny, K. “The Cumulative Culture Mosaic”. In Mathieu Charbonneau (ed) The Evolution of Techniques: Rigidity and Flexibility in Use, Transmission, and Innovation; Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology; MIT Press, forthcoming. 

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