Vale Cathy Bow

B.A., M.A Linguistics, Grad Dip Yolngu Studies, PhD

Research Associate 

In 2021 we lost Dr Cathy Bow suddenly. 

Please find her book of shared condolences here and her memorial Facebook Album here.

Cathy Bow was an incredibly humble person. All Cathy’s research work was undertaken with the utmost care and respect. In working on the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, she had close relationships with many Aboriginal Language Speakers across the Northern Territory. She worked to find, collate, digitise and keep safe many records of language and language learning resources, drawing them into one place and making them available under the authority of Elder leadership for the benefit of future generations.

Her passion for this work followed through into her PhD studies, which have been so important to her over the last few years. She worked carefully finding and creating ways to work with Aboriginal languages in ways which maintained their integrity as the places and identities of language speakers whilst also opening language learning to non-Indigenous speakers and young people. It was with great pride that she received her doctorate in May this year, becoming Doctor Cathy Bow, a title recognised as very well deserved by all her peers.

It was the small acts of care and kindness that we have appreciated so much from Cathy, as she has tirelessly and with great enthusiasm helped many, many people with language work, paper collaborations, conferences and other social gatherings. Always over-committing because so many people wanted to work with her, but always enthusiastic for the next project and the new thing that had not been done yet, but which was just waiting around the corner.

Her kindness and generosity in supporting ways that we can connect together, has helped the TopEndSTS collective to flourish and grow. Cathy was a founding member, and the heart and soul of this group. Always pushing us to believe in our own abilities and contributions, as well as participating in all our madcap schemes with immense joy and practical attention to detail.

She has been a solid point around which so many people have oriented. Within the Northern Institute at CDU, in linguistics work with speakers of Bininj and Yolŋu languages, with her commitment to the church. We have come to rely on her guiding influence in so many areas. It’s just testament to so many people that she touched, that the many communities of which she is a part become visible and gather around to support each other at this time.

It’s with such sadness that we remember the many joys and achievements of Cathy Bow’s very, very full life. An unfailingly smiling person who in the words of Dr Waymamba Gaykamaŋu ‘was just SO nice’. She is missed by the Bininj and Yolŋu Elders and collaborators who have known her so well over the years, and who have spoken about the unfailing support that she has offered to them and their languages. They have come together to share the news of Cathy’s passing, and to commemorate the particular work and relationships that they shared.

It will take a long time for the sense of shock at Cathy’s passing to subside. As someone who was so active and vital, with seemingly so many wonderful adventures and achievements ahead, it is difficult to reconcile this current situation with what we had all expected. We had expected she would always be there, we relied on her steady hand and guidance. This is not something anyone had considered and it makes it so much harder to process. She never hogged the limelight, or stepped forward unnecessarily, at the same time as she was a diligent powerhouse of small detailed activity, connecting so many people and achieving so many things with such grace and respect. You just imagine her walking down the corridor, calling on the phone, responding to that email.

Thank you to Dr Michaela Spencer for writing about Cathy on behalf of NI staff.

Dr Cathy Bow is a linguist with research experience in both descriptive and applied linguistics. She has described the sound system of an African language, investigated language development in children with impaired hearing, explored endangered language documentation, and researched the language and communication needs of international medical graduates. Cathy has worked as a teacher of English as an Additional Language, and as a trainer and coach for language learners. She works as project manager for the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages, and co-ordinator of the Digital Language Shell and the online Bininj Kunwok language and culture course.

Cathy is a member of the Top End Language Lab and TopEndSTS, and completed her PhD 'Entanglements of digital technologies and Indigenous language work in the Northern Territory' in November 2020 through Charles Darwin University and the Australian National University.

Research Interests

  • Indigenous Australian languages and linguistics 
  • Digital Archiving
  • Language Documentation
  • Language teaching and learning

PhD Supervisors

Professor Michael Christie, Principal (Northern Institute)
Professor Helen Verran (Northern Institute)
Professor Jane Simpson (ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences)
Dr Susy Macqueen (ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences)

Latest Media

03 April 2020 - Cathy Bow speaks to Annie Brown of ABC Radio Darwin (105.7) for their "how to" series (targeted at people at home self-isolating) on how to learn another language... and where and how can people start learning from home. Listen HERE, go to 30:00min

Current Research Projects

  • Investing in Aboriginal Languages ARC Discovery project, 2021-2023
  • Teaching and learning resources for endangered Yolŋu languages, Indigenous Languages & Arts project 2020-2022
  • Resource development for Bininj Kunwok Regional Language Centre
  • Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages,, ARC Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities project
  • Developing pathways for remote students to higher education, Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) 2020

Previous Research Projects

  • Digital shell to enable Indigenous authorities to teach language and culture, Office of Learning and Teaching 2016-17
  • Australian Indigenous Languages Institute Indigenous Languages & Arts project 2018-19

Professional Positions, Memberships & Awards

  • Committee member for Languages and Cultures Network for Australian Universities (LCNAU)
  • Member of Australian Linguistics Society
  • Member of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)
  • Associate member of Research Unit for Indigenous Language (University of Melbourne)
  • Co-chair of NT organising committee for Australian Computational and Linguistics Olympiad (
  • STS Making and Doing Award 2020, for ‘Making and Doing TopEndSTS’
  • Best Indigenous Engagement at CDU HDR Futures Conference 2019
  • 2014, Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Performance in Research (awarded to the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages team)

Media Coverage

  • 03 April 2020 - Cathy Bow speaks to Annie Brown of ABC Radio Darwin (105.7) for their "how to" series (targeted at people at home self-isolating) on how to learn another language... and where and how can people start learning from home. Listen HERE, go to 30:00mins
  • 08 February 2016 – Interview with Territory FM’s Daryl Manzie. Listen HERE
  • 2015 - Cathy Bow speaks to ABC Radio Darwin about the results of the #LAALcomp. Listen HERE

Link to Research Publications

Dr Cathy Bow


T: +61 8 8946 6876

Darwin, NT



CDU Research Webportal