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Ninuku region Patjarr Community and Kayili Artists


Patjarr is one of Australia's most remote communities, located on the edge of the Gibson Desert in the far east of Western Australia. Kayili Artists is the community owned enterprise for the Ngaanyatjarra people of Patjarr (Karilywara).

The centre started in 2004 and aims to help artists to generate income and to provide resources to sustain the community's identity and cultural energy. The vitality and continuity of culture in Patjarr is the primary ingredient in the strength and individuality of the paintings.

Artists include Coiley Campbell, Arthur Robertson, Jackie Giles, Aubrey Carnegie, Matjiwa Jones, Nancy Carnegie, Ngipi Ward, Pulpura Davies and others. The artists of Patjarr are recognised nationally and internationally for the high quality of their work and many of them have exhibited work through the Warburton Arts Project.

Patjarr is located 240 kilometres north of Warburton by road, in the Clutterbuck Hills area of the Gibson Desert. It is a small community that was established in 1992 as an outstation of Warburton and has a population of around 30 people.

Map of AP{Y communities including Ninuku

Community history

In the mid 1960s the Pintubi people from Patjarr were moved from their Gibson Desert homelands by the State Government and the Federal Weapons Research Establishment and relocated to surrounding communities. This was to protect them, and other people from the APY lands, from death or injury from the debris which fell over a vast area of Central Australia during the rocket research programmes of the 1960s and 70s. After the programmes were closed down in the late 1970s, the desert people began to return to their homelands and to their traditional way of life.

The Aboriginal people living at Patjarr were some of the last groups to be contacted by Europeans. Native Patrol Officers were bringing people to Warburton Mission from this area as late as the start of the 1970s. Feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome at Warburton, people moved back to their traditional country.

However, alarge portion of their country had been declared the Gibson Desert Nature Reserve without their knowledge. Declaration of the Reserve meant that people were prohibited from hunting and gathering. Nevertheless, by 1992 people were living at Patjarr and an outstation had been established.

In 1993 Ngaanyatjarra Council, acting on behalf of the Traditional Owners, excised a permanent living area in the Nature Reserve. In 1995 Patjarr Community became incorporated and basic services were provided.

Art, culture and country

Art and craft is a significant means for expressing Ngaanyatjarra and Ngaatjatjarra culture and identity and serves an important role in inter-generational learning in the community.

Kayili Artists was set up in 2004 with a charter is to help the artists of Patjarr to generate income and to provide resources to sustain its identity and cultural energy. The centre has an elegant building which was designed and built by architecture staff and students from the universities of NSW and South Australia.

Patjarr art centre
Kayili Artists centre

The Traditional Owners of the Gibson Desert have maintained continuous connections with their country. In 1998, the Ngaanyatjarra Council decided to investigate the establishment of an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) on their land. After five years of consultation and planning, Ngaanyatjarra Council declared a 9.8 million hectare area as the Ngaanyatjarra Lands Indigenous Protected Area. The declaration was made in August 2002 at Patjarr.

At least five endangered or vulnerable animal species are known to occur in the Ngaanyatjarra IPA: mulgara; marsupial mole; greater bilby; black-footed rock wallaby and ghost bat. Through working with Yarnangu (traditional owners), scientists have been able to improve the conservation status of other species such as tjakura (the great desert skink). Ngaanyatjarra IPA management will help Yarnangu to look after their country in a manner compatible with traditional knowledge, providing support for people to move about their country, and to pass this knowledge and responsibility on to future generations.

Acknowledgement: some information is sourced from the Ngaanyatjarra Council Handbook


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