The Utopia region is located 240 kilometres north east of Alice
Springs. It is home to around 2000 people, mainly Alyawarre
speakers, who live in twenty five outstations flanking the Sandover
River. Other languages such as Kaytetye, Anmatyerre and some
Arrernte are also spoken. Most people speak some English. Traditional
culture is very strong and the community is governed by the
Utopia covers approximately 1800 square kilometres region
of desert country. Previously pastoral land, the country has
been owned by the community since 1972 and has not been grazed
significantly since that time so it has largely returned to
its natural state. The country is mainly mulga scrub and spinifex
on red sandy flats, broken up by dry river beds lined with gum
trees and paperbarks.
Some of the outstations in Utopia include: Arlparra (the main
store), Atneltye (Boundary Bore), Lyentye (Mosquito Bore), Atnarare
(Soakage Bore), Arrawarre (Soapy Bore), Irrultja (Irrweltye),
Ingkwelaye (Kurrajong Bore), Ankerrapwe (Utopia Homestead) and
Artekerre (Three Bores). These communities are shown on the
of Utopia (opens in a new browser window).
The region was named Utopia by the first white settlers in
1927, apparently in anticipation of an idyllic life after they
found rabbits so tame that they could be caught easily by hand.
The reality proved rather different for them. It has an arid
climate with low rainfall and long hot summers, frosty winter
nights and only limited vegetation cover on the sandy red soils.
When European pastoralists settled in Utopia in the 1920s,
the Aboriginal owners were forced to move away from their country
and ceremonial sites and instead lived near the various homesteads.
Many Aboriginal men worked as stockmen and Aboriginal women
as domestic help in exchange for food rations and clothing.
They provided cheap but necessary labour for the station.
It was not until 1967 that legislation was passed requiring
Aboriginal workers to be paid at the same rate as white people
doing similar work. One unfortunate consequence of the requirement
for equal pay was that many Aboriginal workers lost their jobs
and were displaced from their country.
This strengthened their desire to regain control of their country,
and claims for control of their traditional lands were made
under newly introduced laws.
In 1981 a successful land claim over the Utopia station resulted
in the community gaining permanent legal title to the land.
Rather than establishing a central town, the owners chose to
live in small outstations or camps which they refer to as their