Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara

Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY, or APY lands) is a large, sparsely-populated local government area (LGA) for Aboriginal Australians, located in the remote north west of South Australia. It consists of the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra aṉangu (i.e. people), and has a population of around 2300 people.

Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
South Australia
Location of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
Population2,276 (2016 census)[1]
 • Density0.022172/km2 (0.057426/sq mi)
Area102,650 km2 (39,633.4 sq mi)
Council seatUmuwa
RegionFar North[2]
State electorate(s)Giles
Federal Division(s)Grey
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Logo.jpg
WebsiteAnangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
LGAs around Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara:
MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Kaltukatjara, NT) MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Imanpa, NT) MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Aputula (Finke), NT)
Ngaanyatjarraku, WA Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Outback Communities Authority
Laverton Shire, WA Maralinga Tjarutja, SA Outback Communities Authority

Governance of the area is determined by the APY Land Rights Act 1981 (amended 2017), whereby an elected Executive Board reports to the Premier of South Australia.

Geography and locationEdit

The Musgrave Ranges, straddling the border between South Australia and the Northern Territory and the Mann Ranges and Tomkinson Ranges, both in the north-west of South Australia, stretch from east to west on the southern side of the NT border. The APY area includes isolated ranges and hills and large sandhill plains, and APY people also have affiliations with land in the NT to the Petermann Ranges, and in Western Australia.[3]

There is a long strip of limestone breaking through red soil near Fregon/Kaltjiti, where a new water source was found in 2019. The area is one of two places in the world which have landlocked tectonic plates, and drilling samples have been estimated to be between 5 and 10 million years old.[4]

Adjoining landEdit

To the north of the APY lands, the MacDonnell Shire Council was created by the Northern Territory in 2008, renamed MacDonnell Region in 2014, spanning the south of the Territory from west to east. Western Australia lies to the west. The South Australian LGA to the south of APY lands is Maralinga Tjarutja (with the District Council of Coober Pedy to the east of that, but not adjoining APY).

The Outback Communities Authority is not an LGA, but is the statutory authority responsible for the development of areas adjoining the APY Lands (excluding the above-mentioned) as well as other large areas (63% of the state in total), to "manage the provision of public services and facilities to outback communities" which are widely dispersed across the region.[5]


The APY LGA encompasses a number of settlements of a range of sizes, many of them being located in the Musgrave Ranges. An interactive map shows the location of communities and further information about each on the Paper Tracker website.[6]

The full list (main ones in bold) is:[7]


The statutory functions of the APY body corporate are:[8]

  • to ascertain the wishes and opinions of traditional owners in relation to the management, use and control of the lands and to seek, where practicable, to give effect to those wishes and opinions;
  • to protect the interests of traditional owners in relation to the management, use and control of the lands; and
  • to negotiate with persons desiring to use, occupy or gain access to any part of the lands;
  • to administer land vested in Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara.

A permit is required for visitors to any community on the APY Lands, as they are freehold lands owned by the Aboriginal people.[9]


Early historyEdit

The Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people (aṉangu) had lived in this area for many thousands of years. After the British began to colonise the Australian continent from 1788 onwards, the aṉangu remained more or less undisturbed for many more years, apart from very occasional encounters with a variety of European explorers.[citation needed]

20th centuryEdit

In 1921, with white settlement now beginning to encroach on the aṉangu's traditional land, the South Australian Government proclaimed the North-West Aboriginal Reserve. This Reserve consisted of most of what is now known as the APY Lands, with the exception of the eastern part of the APY Lands, which was given over to pastoral leases to Europeans.[citation needed]

In 1937, the Presbyterian Church council, spearheaded by Charles Duguid, established the Ernabella Mission on the Lands at the place now known as Pukatja.[citation needed]

By the 1950s, many aṉangu were living at the Ernabella Mission, while many others lived at camps on pastoral leases on what are now the Lands, or nearby, where they would work. Those pastoral leases included Granite Downs, Everard Park, Victory Downs, De Rose Hill, Kenmore Park, and Mount Cavanagh.[citation needed]

In 1961, to prevent overcrowding at Ernabella Mission, the Church established what became the community of Amata, but which was originally known as Musgrave Park. At the same time the Church also established what is now the community of Kaltjiti, but which was then known as Fregon.[citation needed]

In 1968, what is now the community of Indulkana was established by the South Australian Government, as a base from which to provide welfare services to aṉangu living in camps on pastoral leases, where work was becoming increasingly difficult to find. At that time, the surrounding area was excised from pastoral leases and declared the Indulkana Aboriginal Reserve.[citation needed]

The body now known as Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara was formed in 1981 by the passing of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights Act 1981[10] by the Parliament of South Australia under Premier Don Dunstan, and includes the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra groups.[11]

"Ara Irititja" is a project of the APY, commenced in 1994 to identify, copy and electronically record historical materials about the Anangu (Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara people). Its purpose is to prevent the loss of the history, and to allow the teaching of it to others in the community.[12]

21st centuryEdit


The peoples of the region have not had any major economic development, apart from tourism, but there have been proposals to mine in the area. The Mintabie opal fields are located in the area, but separate from its administration.[13]

The Musgrave Block in the Lands has been viewed as having billions of dollars in potential mineral deposits and petroleum. But anangu have been wary of opening up the area to mining, concerned about the impact on sacred sites and the environment. Mining companies are conducting discussion to try to allay these worries.[14]

For decades two major issues throughout the Lands have been the low standard of health care (compared to the rest of Australia) and drug abuse, namely alcohol, petrol sniffing, cannabis and later other illicit drugs. Part of the difficulty in reducing alcohol and illicit drug use has been the straddling of the indigenous area by three jurisdictions: South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The jurisdictional crossover has made police enforcement of drug trafficking laws difficult, but in 2007 collaboration between these jurisdictions was reported to be delivering results.[15]

In July 2007 South Australia Police in co-operation with liquor outlets in Coober Pedy (250 km to the south-east entrance to the Lands) agreed to create a register of alcohol purchases, to enable police to identify persons who purchased large quantities of alcohol in Coober Pedy potentially for transportation into Aboriginal lands.[citation needed] Also in July, Commonwealth Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough offered federal help for a "drug and alcohol crackdown" in South Australian Aboriginal lands – such as the APY Lands.[16]

In early August 2007, the Rann South Australian Labor Government announced a$ 34 million package to "improve well-being of Aboriginal people" in the APY Lands. $25m was to be spent on improving housing and most of the remaining $8m on law enforcement in Amata and Pukatja.[17] In November, SA Police Commissioner Mal Hyde announced the signing of a new enterprise agreement for South Australia Police that would include incentive packages to lure police to work in rural and remote areas such as the Lands.[18]

UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide (now Uniting Communities)[19] set up a website in 2007 to monitor State and Federal Government spending promises for the APY Lands, tracking the delivery of those promises.[citation needed]

In May 2008, retired Supreme Court judge the Hon E. P. "Ted" Mullighan QC delivered his supplementary report to his Children in State Care inquiry, entitled the "Children on Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands Commission of Inquiry – a Report into Sexual Abuse".[20]


Mintabie changes and closureEdit

In December 2009 the South Australian Parliament passed the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Land Rights (Mintabie) Amendment Bill,[21] which was an amendment to the APY Land Rights Act 1981, the Opal Mining Act 1995 and by-laws under the APY Land Rights Act 1981, affecting the mainly non-Indigenous residents of the opal-mining town, Mintabie.[22] This Amendment changed the licensing system for residential and commercial premises effective 1 July 2012, allowing the Minister responsible for the Opal Mining Act to grant licences.[23]

A 2017 report found many instances of non-compliance with the 2009 Amendment as well as other problems occurring in the settlement of Mintabie. It recommended closure of the township, with control reverting to APY.[23] After an appeal by residents failed, the final eviction date for the township was set at 31 December 2019.[24]

Main Access Road upgradeEdit

The upgrade to the Main Access Road is a major project, scheduled to begin in 2015 and be completed in 2019, at a cost of $106.25m (split 80/20 between federal and state governments). It is an upgrade to 210 kilometres (130 mi) of the main access road between the Stuart Highway and Pukatja/Ernabella, and 21 kilometres (13 mi) of community and airstrip access roads in Pukatja, Umuwa, Kaltjiti/Fregon, Mimili and Iwantja/Indulkana. It is expected to deliver safer road travel, better access to employment opportunities, improved delivery of food supplies, improved living standards, etc.[25] In January 2019 it was reported that construction started in 2017, and should be completed by 2021.[26]


A few months after his election in early 2018, Premier Steven Marshall, also responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, visited the APY lands as part of his "whole-of-government" plan which aims to measure SA's progress on improving services to Aboriginal communities. He reported afterwards that employment, especially for young people, was a major issue that needed addressing; and the other one was housing. His government was working on a new funding agreement for remote housing with the Federal Government, after the 10-year National Partnership Agreement on Remote Housing had ended on 30 June. Susan Tilley, Uniting Communities Aboriginal policy and advocacy manager, said that there were about 75 families still on the waiting list for housing, and that maintenance of existing stock and new housing had to be continued.[27]


As of 2018, the APY Lands were served by police stations situated at Amata, Ernabella, Mimili, Murputja, Umuwa and the town of Marla. Specialist policing support is located at Umuwa, including CIB and domestic violence investigators.[28][29]

The station at Umuwa has not been permanently manned.[30] As of 2020 a new, permanent policing complex is being built at Umawa. It will accommodate officers with specialist response capabilities, as well provide a base for a mobile unit which will be deployed in Fregon/Kaljiti, Indulkana and Pipalytjara. The service will work closely with child protection service agencies address child abuse and family violence issues.[31][32][31][33] The 2019–2020 Government of South Australia agency budget estimates the completion date as June 2021, with a total spend of A$4.28 million.[34]

New water sourceEdit

In early 2019, at a site near Kaljiti/Fregon, a new water source was found in a "palaeo-valley", where groundwater is held about 90 metres (300 ft) below the surface (existing sources being about 30 metres [100 ft] down). Core drill samples have been dated at 5–10 million years old. Pipes were temporarily capped, but elder Witjiti George said that he hoped the water could be used to support a cattle herd, helping to create jobs and an ongoing industry for isolated communities. The new source could also provide much needed drinking water. APY Lands general manager Richard King said the origin of the water was yet to be established, but the water is pure, with low salinity. Government experts were working with Flinders University and the CSIRO to learn more about the source.[4]


In January 2020, the South Australian government declared that due the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, camels in large numbers were destroying infrastructure and putting families and communities in danger as they searched for water sources.[35] They were also destroying native vegetation, contaminating water supplies and destroying cultural sites. On 8 January 2020 the South Australian Department for Environment and Water began a five-day cull of the camels, the first mass cull of camels in the area. Professional shooters would kill between 4,000 and 5,000 (or up to 10,000[35]) camels from helicopters, " accordance with the highest standards of animal welfare".[36]


2016 censusEdit

The 2016 census identified the following statistics:[37]

  • APY Lands had 2,276 residents, 52.4% of whom were female and 83.6% of whom were Indigenous Australians (compared to a national percentage of 2.8%), Australian Aboriginal ancestry 71.9% (0.5% nationally).
  • 91.5% of the people were born in Australia (66.7% nationally); 84.9% of people had both parents born in Australia (47.3% nationally).
  • There were 511 families.
  • Median age of people was 28 years; children 0–14 years, 24.2% of the population; people aged 65+ years old, 5.2% of the population.
  • 19.2% considered themselves affiliated to the Uniting Church, another 20.2% Christian (3.7%, 2.6% nationally).
  • Languages spoken at home were: English only 12.9%; other languages included Pitjantjatjara 65.6%, Yankunytjatjara 3.0%, Western Arrarnta 0.4%, Warlpiri 0.3% and Ngaanyatjarra 0.2%.
  • 42.9% worked full-time (57.7% nationally) and 25.1% part-time (30.4% nationally).
  • 91.3% of the population rented their homes (30.9 nationally), paying median rent of $75 ($250 nationally).
  • 45% of dwellings had no motor vehicle (7.5% nationally).
  • 35.9% of households accessed the internet from the dwelling (83.2 nationally).


2006 CensusEdit

The 2006 ABS census[38] identified:

  • The APY Lands had 2,230 residents, 50.6% of whom were female and 84.5% of whom were Indigenous Australians (compared to a national percentage of 2.3%).
  • The APY Lands communities had a significantly higher proportion of younger people than the overall Australian population, and accordingly significantly lower proportion of older people than the overall population.
  • 98% of the residents were Australian-born (compared to 86.1% nationwide).
  • 58.6% of residents listed Pitjantjatjara as the language spoken at home, whilst 14.3% listed Yankunytjatjara as their spoken language. 18.7% gave English as the language spoken at home, compared with 78.5% of the overall Australian population.
  • 46.1% identified with being affiliated with the Uniting Church in Australia (compared to 5.7% with that affiliation nationwide), explainable by the UCA's significant presence in each community.
  • Median incomes in the APY Lands were significantly lower than the Australian population, with a median individual weekly income of $219/week compared with $466/week nationwide.
  • The APY Lands have a significantly larger proportion of single-parent families (30.1% cf 15.8% nationwide).
  • Home ownership is a distant reality for most people on the APY Lands, with only 7% of residents either fully owning or in the process of purchasing their own home – compared with 32.6% of Australians fully owning and 32.2% purchasing (a nett of 64.8%). The majority of APY Lands residents are likely to have a landlord.

2011 town populationsEdit

The largest towns in the area are (with 2011 census population figures):[39]

Health facilitiesEdit

The Nganampa Health Council (NHC), an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Health Organisation, runs all of the clinics in the APY lands and runs a wide range of services, such as the Tjilpi Pampaku Ngura Aged Care facility and health-related programs "including aged care, sexual health, environmental health, health worker training, dental, women's health, male health, children's health, immunisation, eye health and mental health".[40]

In 2014, a Mobile Dialysis Unit, a specially designed truck fitted with three dialysis chairs started operation, visiting remote Aboriginal communities across South Australia, including Pukatja, Mimili, Kaltjiti and Amata in the APY lands, as well as Marla, Yalata, Coober Pedy, and Leigh Creek.[41] It is run from Purple House, a renal health clinic in Alice Springs, over 400 kilometres (250 mi) away. In July 2018, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Ken Wyatt, then Minister for Indigenous Health, announced increased funding for a number of health initiatives, including expanding renal health units in remote parts, through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).[42]

In November 2019, a four-bed dialysis clinic was opened in Pukatja, named after Kinyin Mckenzie, who died in Alice Springs while receiving dialysis. The first such clinic in remote South Australia, it was funded mostly by the federal government, but boosted by the sale of paintings by Ernabella Arts, which raised A$170,000 towards the centre. At full capacity, the clinic can provide dialysis for up to 16 patients, but there is still a need for some short-stay housing to accommodate those who travel from elsewhere for treatment at Pukatja.[43][44]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AC)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 10 April 2018.  
  2. ^ Department of Planning.
  3. ^ O'Connor 1997.
  4. ^ a b Martin & Puddy 2019.
  5. ^ OCA.
  6. ^ Paper Tracker – Anangu.
  7. ^ – Map.
  8. ^ Land Rights Act, p. 8.
  9. ^ Permits.
  10. ^ ALII 1981, p. i.
  11. ^ – organisations.
  12. ^ Ara Irititja.
  13. ^ OACDT.
  14. ^ Haxton 2003.
  15. ^ Adelaide Advertiser, 23 July 2007
  16. ^ Adelaide Advertiser 2007, p. 14.
  17. ^ SA Govt 2007.
  18. ^ ABC News 2007.
  19. ^ UnitingCare Wesley.
  20. ^ Mullighan Inquiry Report 2008.
  21. ^ Paper Tracker 2007.
  22. ^ APY Land Rights Bill 2009.
  23. ^ a b Mintabie Review 2018.
  24. ^ ABC News, Eviction 2019.
  25. ^ DPTI Road Upgrade FAQ 2018.
  26. ^ Road Upgrade 2019.
  27. ^ Richards 2018.
  28. ^ ABC: SAPOL statement 2018.
  29. ^ Boisvert 2018.
  30. ^ "Police Stations like ill-equipped sheds", Adelaide Advertiser, 7 July 2007 [1]
  31. ^ a b Henson 2018.
  32. ^ DPMC media release 2018.
  33. ^ Police service on APY Lands 2018.
  34. ^ SA State budget 2019.
  35. ^ a b Ollie 2020.
  36. ^ Bogle 2020.
  37. ^ ABS 2016 Census.
  38. ^ ABS 2006 Census.
  39. ^ ABS 2011 Census.
  40. ^ NHC.
  41. ^ SA Health.
  42. ^ NITV 2019.
  43. ^ ABC News 2019.
  44. ^ SBS 2019.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 26°30′S 132°00′E / 26.5°S 132°E / -26.5; 132