We examine constructed dialogue in a longitudinal corpus of Australian Aboriginal English (AE) spoken in Perth, Australia. We conduct a variationist analysis of naturalistic data from forty-six L1 speakers of AE born 1907–2005. We ask, regarding the use of quotative frames, whether AE has changed in line with settler colonial Englishes. We examine whether a division of labor exists in the use of quotative frames, and whether the rise of first-person-marked internal thought reporting attested in settler colonial Englishes is present in AE.
Our statistical modeling shows functional partitioning in how quotative frames are used, with AE speakers strongly encoding direct speech across time. We find that the rise of first-person-marked internal thought reporting has not been systemic in AE. Despite be like's incursion after 1983, the underlying system of AE has not changed. The cultural prerogative to encode speech remains strong despite sustained contact with non-First Nations Australia.