A shared language – using digital tech in Central Australia

“Kulila!” (listen up!)

“We are a group of people in Central Australia who want to bring emotions, feelings, and issues out in the open and get people talking about mental health”


Since 2012 a team of Indigenous women and mental health professionals in Central Australia have come together to uncover words for talking about mental health in the traditional languages of the Central Desert Region in Australia.

The Uti Kulintjaku Project is an innovative, Aboriginal-led mental health literacy program initiated by the NPY Women’s Council’s Ngangkari Program.

Uti Kulintjaku is a Pitjantjatjara phrase that means ‘to think and understand clearly,’ and this is exactly what the group is doing. The project aims to strengthen bi-cultural mental health literacy for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health professionals by creating a shared understanding of the language used to talk about feelings.

The NPY Council provides health, cultural and community services to over 6000 men, women and children across a 350,000 square kilometre stretch that includes parts of South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Accommodating the needs of people across a large area isn’t easy, so the council have developed a suite of resources to assist with their work, including an app.

Called Kulila! the Pitjantjatjara phrase for ‘listen up!’ the app is a customisable touch and listen language dictionary app and is available for free download on smartphones and tablets.

Like a dictionary, the app contains words in Pitjatjantjara and Ngaanyatjarra to express ones feelings and emotions with the meanings in English, along with an audio file pronouncing the words.

The Uti Kulintjaku team believe that creating a shared understanding of language will lead to better communication between Indigenous people and health workers, to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people who need it most.