Dr Samantha Disbray

Ph.D (Linguistics), B.A. (Hons)

Senior Researcher

I am a linguist and researcher on the Remote Education Systems (RES) Project, with the Co-operative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation. The RES project is investigating innovative education models for remote contexts, responsive to community goals and aspirations for education. My particular research interest in project is language in education and community-based learning. I am also conducting research on language in legal contexts, funded through a grant from the NT Law Society and collaborate with the Centre of Excellence, Dynamics of Languages at the Australian National University on a Warumungu language project.

I have worked in Central Australia since 1997. From 2003 – 2007 along with Indigenous researchers in Tennant Creek, I carried out a longitudinal study of early child language input and development, as part of a larger investigation of Aboriginal child language acquisition. My PhD research looked at later child language development and documented the new language variety, Wumpurrarni English, spoken in Tennant Creek. I have also worked with speakers to document the traditional language of the area, Warumungu. As the regional linguist for the NT Department of Education in Central Australia I worked for five years supporting teaching and learning Indigenous languages and English as an Additional Language or Dialect in NT schools.

LINK to hear an interview with Dr Samantha Disbray and Nadine Maloney discussing the Language and the Law project funded through the NT Law Society from ABC Radio Alice Springs - February 2015 

Research Interests

  • Innovative Education Models
  • Language & Education Policy and Practice
  • Language & the Law
  • Child Language Development
  • Contemporary & Traditional Australian and Indigenous Languages
  • Wumpurrarni English & Warumungu

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Research Projects

Current Projects

  • The Indigenous Justice and Exoneration Project, with Felicity Gerry QC, LEBA, CDU.
  • The Remote Education Systems project – http://crc-rep.com/remote-education-systems
  • Language and the Law – funded by NT Law Society
  • Warumungu Language Recordings Documentation and Repatriation - in collaboration with Centre for Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, ANU

Publications & Resources


Nixon, Nakamarra, & Disbray, S. (2011) Julaka. Warumungu Bird Book. Northern Territory Department of Education, Alice Springs.

Disbray, S.  (2008). More than one way to catch a frog: A study of children’s discourse in an Australian contact language. PhD Thesis, e-volume, University of Melbourne.

Disbray. S (Compiler) with Warumungu speakers from the Tennant Creek Community. (2015). Warumungu Picture Dictionary, 2nd edition. Alice Springs, NT: IAD Press.

Book Chapters

Disbray, S. (2014). Evaluating Bilingual Education in Warlpiri Schools. In R. Pensalfini, M. Turpin & D. Guillemin (eds.), Language Description informed by Theory (pp. 25-46). Berlin: John Benjamins. 

Disbray S. (2008). Story-telling Styles: a study of adult-child interactions in Tennant Creek. In J. Simpson & G. Wigglesworth (eds.),Children's Language and Multilingualism (pp.45-65). London, New York: Continuum International Publishing Group. 

Disbray, S., & Wigglesworth, G. (2008). A longitudinal study of language acquisition in Aboriginal children in three communities. In G. Robinson, U. Eichelkamp, J. Goodnow, I. Katz (eds.), Contexts of Child Development: Culture, Policy and Intervention (pp. 167-182). Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press   

Journal Articles

Disbray, S., & Bauer, R. (2016). A Place to work and learn - Yuendumu Learning Centre. Learning Communities International Journal of Learning in Social Contexts [Special Issue: Synthesis & Integration writing from the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation], 19, 26-45. 

Disbray, S. (2016). The Development of Reference Realization and Narrative in an Australian Contact Language, Wumpurrarni English. Frontiers in Psychology. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00043.

Disbray, S. (2015). Spaces for learning: policy and practice for Indigenous languages in a remote context. Language and Education, 30(4), 317-336.

Guenther, J., Disbray, S., & Osborne, S. (2015). Building on remote perspectives: what counts as important? Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, 44(2).

Vaughan, J., Wigglesworth, G., Loakes, D., Disbray, S., & Moses, K. (2015). Child-Caregiver Interaction in Two Remote Indigenous Australian CommunitiesFrontiers in Psychology, 6, 514. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00514.

Disbray, S. (2015). Indigenous Languages in Education, Policy and Practice in Australia. Indigenous Education in Australia. Policy, Participation and Practice. Multi-Disciplinary Research in the Arts, 4(1), 1-27. 

Guenther, J., Disbray, S., & Osborne, S. (2014). Digging up the (Red) Dirt on Education: One Shovel at a Time Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, 17(4), 40-56.

Disbray, S., & Loakes, D. (2013). Writing Aboriginal English & Creoles: Five case studies in Australian education contexts. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 36(6), 285-301

Disbray, S., & Simpson, J. (2005). The expression of possession Wumpurrarni English, Tennant CreekMonash Working Papers in Linguistics, 4(2), 65-86.

Conference Proceedings & Papers

Disbray, S. (2016). Workshop – The research process. Kriol & Contact Languages Workshop, Charles Darwin University, 6-10 June 2016. http://www.dynamicsoflanguage.edu.au/news-and-media/events/article/?id=kriol-and-contact-languages-workshop-charles-darwin-university-6-10-june-2016.

Disbray, S. (2016). Invited plenary presentation. NT Language Ecologies: Implications for Community Legal Education. Community Legal Education Conference, 26 May, 2016. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3933.3367.

Ross, E.N., & Disbray, S. (2016). Invited keynote presentation. Conceptualising the world in Warlpiri.  Discovering the Power of Two Worlds Symposium, Australian Council of TESOL Associations and Australian Council for Adult Literacy Conference, Perth, 7 April, 2016.

Egan, A.L.N., Disbray, S., & Bauer, R. (2016). Language and literacy for social justice and equity: Adult Learning in a Community Learning Centre. Australian Council of TESOL Associations and Australian Council for Adult Literacy Conference, Perth, 10 April, 2016. 

Disbray, S. (2015). Multilingual Affordances in remote Indigenous teaching and learning. Australian Association for Education Research. University of Notre Dame, 2 December 2015.

Disbray, S. (2015).  Symposium Convenor and presenter, with Enid Gallagher, Barbara Martin and Brian Devlin.  Multilingual Learning in and out of School in remote Indigenous Australia. Language, Education and Diversity Conference, University of Auckland, 25 November 2015. 

Morrison, S., Morrison, R., Simpson, J., Plummer, R., Jones, M., & Disbray, S. (2015). Warumungu digital stories – new technology for old recordings. Puliima Conference, Melbourne, October 2015.

Disbray, S. (2014) At benchmark? Evaluating the Northern Territory bilingual education program. In L.Gawne & J.Vaughan (eds.) Selected Papers from the 44th Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/11343/40960

Morrison, B., Nakamarra, & Disbray, S. (2008). Warumungu children and language in Tennant Creek. Warra wiltaniappendi = Strengthening languages. Proceedings of the Inaugural Indigenous Languages Conference (ILC) 2007 (pp. 107-111). Adelaide, Australia.

Disbray, S. (2014). Curriculum as Knowledge System: Warlpiri Pina-jarrinjaku. International Association for Applied Linguistics World Congress. 10-15 August. Brisbane Convention Centre, Brisbane. 

Disbray, S. (2014). *Keynote* Growing up Talking: A Window into Language Development. Kids, Creoles and Classrooms Symposium. 8 April 2014. Charles Darwin University, Darwin.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8wts2-5LSs

Disbray, S., Dixon, S., & Simpson, J. (2013). Bi-dialectal Australian Aboriginal Children in the Classroom. Invited paper for Colloquium “Developing Multilingualisms. Methodological Advancements in Europe and Australia”, International Symposium on Bilingualism, Singapore, 10-13 June. 

Disbray, S. (2013). Maintaining Language Diversity: Minority Languages in Education Settings. Workshop at the Linguistics Institute, Linguistics Society of America. University of Michigan 6-7th July.

Disbray, S. (2010). Long Term Storage and Access Needs for Indigenous Languages and Cultures in Education Materials. Australian Linguistics Society Conference, Brisbane.

Research Reports

Disbray, S. (2016). Communication Matters: new language varieties and new interactions in legal contexts. Research Brief Series, RB01. Darwin: Charles Darwin University.

Disbray, S., Guenther, J., & Osbourne, S. (2015). Red Dirt Teaching - Developing the right workforce for remote schools. Research Brief Series, 9. Darwin: Charles Darwin University.

Disbray, S. (2014). Aboriginal Ways of Using English. Review. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, 37(3). 

Disbray, S., Meakins, F., & Participants in the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project. (2005). Video Newsletter: Talking with kids. University of Melbourne.

Dr Samantha Disbray


T: +61 8 8959 5346
E: samantha.disbray@cdu.edu.au

Alice Springs, NT