Where have the Honey Ant Readers been? Kiwirrkurra Community, WA.

Kiwirrkurra, located 22°49’03.4″S 127°45’58.8″E, is one of the most remote communities in the world. The first delight on stepping out of the mail plane onto the red airstrip, is inhaling deep breaths of the clear, fresh air!

A dot from the air, but magnificent on the ground, the community is situated in the open, sparsely vegetated, red sandy (‘tali’) Gibson Desert in Western Australia, south west of Lake McKay, 1,200kms to the east of Port Hedland, and around 700kms drive along sandy roads from Alice Springs. The closest neighbouring community is Walungurru (Kintore), located 100km west over the border in the NT.

The Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area (4.2 million hectares) is part of the largest protected zone of arid land on Earth. “We have been looking after country for thousands of years, and we still do so today,” the traditional owners declare. “We came back here because country is not healthy without us. We make it palya (good).” (Mahony 2014)

Kiwirrkurra from Google earth.

Pintupi country. In the middle of the red desert sand, miles from anywhere, yet right in the heart of Pintupi language and culture. Kiwirrkurra from Google earth.

Kiwirrkurra residents

Many of the elder Kiwirrkurra residents experienced their first contact with non-Indigenous people during the Homeland Movement of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. First living in Walungurru (Kintore), which was established in the 1970s, they were finally able to move to Kiwirrkurra and live on traditional land in 1984. A lot has been written about the ‘Pintupi Nine’ who lived a traditional, nomadic life, without any contact with Western society, until they were reunited with their extended family in October 1984.

“I’m Yikultji, Lake Mackay is my country, my home, my dreamtime stories, my birthplace,” said Yilultji, one of the nine. “This is my place, my country. I grew up around Lake Mackay. This is where I was born.” (Mahony 2014).

The community, which has a dynamic school, medical clinic, dialysis unit, office, well equipped store, women’s centre and football oval, is now home to around 150 residents, the majority under 30 years of age. Cultural activities are a regular feature of the lives of the residents.

Kiwirrkurra Community, WA, from the air.

Kiwirrkurra Community, WA, from the air.

Kiwirrkurra School, part of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands School

The fantastic school, a vital part of the community, has a dedicated and inspiring staff lead by Principal, Jason, with 3 local support staff who offer linguistic and cultural guidance to the students and staff, a Pre-Primary to year 3 class taught by Nicky, a Middle- Primary class taught by Tamara, a Secondary class taught by Joe, and a fabulous new Mums and babe’s playgroup being run by Vania in bright, happy room.

The school, highly valued by the community, places great importance on supporting Pintupi and other languages, such as Ngaanaytjarra and Luritja, spoken by their students, and the enthusiastic staff are eager participants on frequent cultural trips out bush with Elders in the community.

Reference: The day the Pintupi Nine entered the modern world By Alana Mahony in BBc News 23 December 2014

We also recommend the following reading:

Ngaanyatjarra communities, specifically Kiwirrkurra

The Pintupi nine