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A detail of a 19th-century engraving entitled Native Encampment by Skinner Prout depicting Indigenous Australians in a wurley[1]

Possibly from Kaurna.[2]



wurley (plural wurleys)

  1. (chiefly South Australia) An Australian indigenous shelter made from small branches with the leaves still attached.
    • 1844, Irene [Margaret] Watson, quoting William Anderson Cawthorne, “Naked: The Coming of the Cloth”, in Aboriginal Peoples, Colonialism and International Law: Raw Law (Indigenous Peoples and the Law; GlassHouse Book), Abingdon, Oxon.; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, published 2015, →ISBN, page 60:
      I took a walk amongst them [the First Nations of the Adelaide Plains] who were in their wurlies, saw a collection of naked boys and girls, men and women, either entirely or half so. They are quite innocent in this respect and the women think nothing of (stalking) bolt upright in perfect nudity.
    • 1860 September 26, George Taplin, “Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council, upon ‘the Aborigines;’ together with Minutes of Evidence and Appendix. Ordered by the Legislative Council to be Printed, 16th October, 1860. [No. 165]”, in Proceedings of the Parliament of South Australia; with Copies of the Documents Ordered to be Printed, volume III, Adelaide, S.A.: Printed by authority by W. C. Cox, government printer, Victoria-Square, OCLC 759827553, paragraph 1326, page 57:
      They were good wurleys at the beginning of the winter, but towards the latter end of the winter they got turned out of them by the fleas—which they frequently do. They have been turned out of the last wurley some time in August; and I gave them a lot of reeds and tried to persuade them to build some more wurleys. They said they did not require them as they were going to corroboree, and they did not like building new wurleys—they must have a make-shift wurley.
    • 1862 February 1, “The Burke and Wills Australian Exploring Expedition”, in The Illustrated London News, volume XL, number 1129, London: Printed & published by George C. Leighton, 198 Strand, OCLC 953800630, page 128, column 3:
      Poor [William John] Wills's remains we found lying in the wurly in which he died, and where [John] King, after his return from seeking the natives, had buried him with sand and rushes.
    • 1874, George Taplin, “Social Customs”, in The Narrinyeri: An Account of the Tribes of South Australian Aborigines Inhabiting the Country around the Lakes Alexandrina, Albert, and Coorong, and the Lower Part of the River Murray: Their Manners and Customs. Also, an Account of the Mission at Port Macleay, Adelaide, S.A.: J. T. Shawyer, printer, King William Street, OCLC 1011129767, section 1 (Marriage), page 9:
      A woman is supposed to signify her consent to the marriage by carrying fire to her husband's wurley [footnote: This word wurley is from the language of the Adelaide tribe. The Narrinyeri word is mante. I have used "wurley" because it is more generally understood by the colonists.] and making his fire for him. An unwilling wife will say, when she wishes to signify that she was forced into marriage with her husband, "I never made any fire in his wurley for him." In case of a man having two wives, the elder is always regarded as the mistress of the hut or wurley.
    • 1875, Robert Bruce, “The Black Boys’ Ride: A True Story”, in The Dingoes and Other Tales, Adelaide, S.A.: Printed at "Advertiser" and "Chronicle" offices, OCLC 82518914, stanza 10, page 74:
      And so those boys with stealthy pace / Returned the saddles to their place; / Then to their wurly quickly hied, / No doubt delighted with their ride.
    • 2012, Noel Beddoe, The Yalda Crossing[1], St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press, →ISBN:
      After hunting through the forest into the afternoon I came to the wurley that had inside it a coolamon and a possum-skin cape, a club, a hatchet with a metal head, and a knife with a horn handle.
    • 2012, Maggie Meyer; Joan Small, “Monsters of the Cretaceous”, in Big Foot Adventures Down Under (Spirits Alive Series; 1), [Gordon, N.S.W.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 164:
      Before night fell, they made themselves a shelter like a wurly by collecting large Wollemi pine fronds from the forest floor, leaning them against each other to make a peaked hut and joining them together with vines. It would offer some protection while they slept.
  2. (chiefly South Australia, by extension) A settlement made up of such shelters.
    • 1846, “a squatter” pseudonym of E. Lloyd, “Biographical Sketch”, in A Visit to the Antipodes: With Some Reminiscences of a Sojourn in Australia, London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 65, Cornhill, OCLC 80380528, page 165:
      But latterly they came in good numbers, and commenced a nightly system of annoyance by dancing their corroberies: []. Finding remonstrance of no avail, one evening, when they were all seated quietly at the wurlie [footnote: Encampment.], I fired a charge of small shot into the midst of them, and retired to the hut: in the morning they had all disappeared.

Alternative forms[edit]



  1. ^ From Edwin Carton Booth (1876), “Queensland”, in Australia [...] In Two Volumes, volume II, London: Virtue and Company, Limited, OCLC 903574116, plate facing page 164.
  2. ^ Pam Peters (1996) The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide (Australian English Style Guide), Cambridge; Melbourne, Vic.: Cambridge University Press, OCLC 918776082, page 818.

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