Yuendumu is a town in the Northern Territory of Australia, 293 km (182 mi) northwest of Alice Springs on the Tanami Road, within the Central Desert Region local government area. It ranks as one of the larger remote communities in central Australia, and has a thriving community of Aboriginal artists. It is home to Pintubi Anmatjere Warlpiri (PAW) Media, which produced the TV series Bush Mechanics.

Northern Territory
Yuendumu is located in Northern Territory
Coordinates22°15′18″S 131°47′43″E / 22.25500°S 131.79528°E / -22.25500; 131.79528Coordinates: 22°15′18″S 131°47′43″E / 22.25500°S 131.79528°E / -22.25500; 131.79528[1]
Population759 (2016 census)[2]
 • Density108/km2 (281/sq mi)
Established1946 (Yendumu Aboriginal Reserve)
4 April 2007 (locality)[1]
Elevation667 m (2,188 ft)(weather station)[4]
Area7 km2 (2.7 sq mi)[citation needed]
Time zoneACST (UTC+9:30)
LGA(s)Central Desert Region[1]
Territory electorate(s)Gwoja[5]
Federal division(s)Lingiari[6]
Mean max temp[4] Mean min temp[4] Annual rainfall[4]
30.3 °C
87 °F
15.4 °C
60 °F
365.2 mm
14.4 in
Localities around Yuendumu:
Chilla Well Chilla Well Chilla Well
Chilla Well Yuendumu Chilla Well
Chilla Well Chilla Well Chilla Well
Adjoining locality[7][8]


Yuendumu was established in 1946 by the Native Affairs Branch of the Australian Government to deliver rations and welfare services;[9] the first superintendent was Francis McGarry.[10] In 1947 the Australian Baptist Home Mission was established there.[11][12] By 1955 many of the Aboriginal people had settled in the town.[citation needed]

Location and demographicsEdit

Yuendumu lies on the edge of the Tanami Desert, north-west of Alice Springs within the Yuendumu Aboriginal Lands Trust area, on traditional Anmatyerr land. It includes numerous outstations, and the area borders Mount Doreen, Mount Denison, Central Mount Wedge and Mount Allan pastoral properties. It takes about three hours to drive along the mostly sealed road from Alice Springs to Yuendumu via the Tanami Road, which branches off the Stuart Highway 25 km (16 mi) north of Alice Springs.[13]

It is within the Central Desert Region (formerly Central Desert Shire) council area.[14]

The community is largely made up of the Warlpiri and Anmatyerr Aboriginal people, with a population of 759 at the 2016 Australian census.[2][15][16]


Yuendumu DoorsEdit

In 1982 five Warlpiri elders started painting in a bright "fauve art" style on the 30 doors of the Yuendumu primary school, in a project which became known as the Yuendumu Doors. Their paintings illustrated 36 ancient designs known as kuruwarri (also spelt kurawarri[17]), to teach the children their people's Jukurrpa (often translated as Dreamtime stories), and established the elders as important teachers of the youth.[18] The five men who painted the doors were: Paddy Jupurrurla Nelson, Roy Jupurrurla Curtis, Paddy Japaljarri Stewart, Paddy Japaljarri Sims, and Larry Jungarrayi Spencer.[19]

The painting of the doors started the whole Warlpiri art movement, and in addition became a powerful symbol of elders caring for children, and helping them in "two-way education". In the mid-1990s, the doors were removed when the school was upgraded in the mid-1990s, the doors were transferred to the South Australian Museum, where they are held today (2021).[19][20]

In 2021, the South Australian Museum, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Museum of Australia mounted an exhibition consisting of posters of the doors, to be displayed in Australian embassies around the world, starting with Chengdu in China.[19]

Warlukurlangu ArtistsEdit

Anthropologist Françoise Dussart provided encouragement to the women to make and sell art, and after some time, the men granted permission to the women to use dots in their acrylic paintings.[18] In 1985 the Warlukurlangu Artists Association was founded at Yuendumu by door painters Stewart and Sims, along with several other senior men and women, including Dolly Nampijinpa Daniels, Darby Jampinjnpa Ross, Jack Jakamarra Ross, Samson Japaljarri Martin and senior women including Uni Nampijinpa Martin, Rosie Nangala Fleming and Maggie Napangardi Watson Incorporated in 1986, it is now called Warlukurlangu Artists Aboriginal Corporation.[17]

Other notable artists who have painted with Warlukurlangu include Kumanjayi Nelson Napaljarri,[21] Norah Nelson Napaljarri,[22] Sheila Brown Napaljarri,[23] and Judy Watson Napangardi.[24]

Contemporary Indigenous Australian artist Kumanjayi Napaljarri Kennedy was a senior woman at Yuendumu,[25] a member of the community council,[26] and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1994, for services to the Yuendumu community.[27] Artist Maggie Napaljarri Ross has received the Order of Australia for her work in establishing the Yuendumu Night Patrol.[28]

The art centre produces over 10,000 paintings each year, and sells the same number. In 2022, more than A$250,000 worth of art by Warlukurlangu Artists sold at the three-day Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.[29]


For over 25 years the community has also been home to Pintubi Anmatjere Warlpiri (PAW) Media, (formerly Warlpiri Media Association),[30] most famously producing Bush Mechanics,[31][32] and Aboriginal Rules,[33] which explored the social meaning of Australian rules football in remote communities.

The 2001 TV series Bush Mechanics was located in and around Yuendumu,[34] and an exhibition and book celebrated the iconic series in 2018/2019.[35][36]

Facilities, sport, eventsEdit

Services and facilities available in Yuendumu include three community stores, Yuendumu Mediation Centre, school,[37] airstrip, swimming pool,[38] the Warlukurlangu art centre, an Aboriginal media organisation (PAW Media), a church, an elderly people's program, women's centre and safe house. Yuendumu retains links with other communities within the region, including Yuelamu, Papunya, Lajamanu, Willowra and Nyirripi.

Yuendumu is home of the Yuendumu Magpies football team,[39] who play in the Central Australian Football League (CAFL) (formerly playing in the Ngurratjuta 'Country' Cup). Yuendumu won the inaugural season of the new Alice Springs competition in 2008.[40] Yuendumu player Liam Jurrah was drafted into the AFL soon after by the Melbourne Football Club.[41]

Yuendumu hosts its annual sports weekend in the first week of August. The event includes football, basketball and softball competitions, attracting teams from other communities around the region. There is also a "Battle of the Bands" night which showcases local bands.

Mt Theo ProgramEdit

Yuendumu elders founded the Mt Theo Program in 1993, to divert youth from an epidemic of petrol sniffing, which has become a model for substance abuse prevention and youth diversion/development in remote Australian communities.[42] In 2007, Johnny Japangardi Miller "Hooker Creek",[43] Peggy Nampijimpa Brown[44] and Andrew Stojanovski[45] were awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for their efforts in founding the program and "for service to the community of Yuendumu and the surrounding region of the Northern Territory through programs addressing substance abuse among Indigenous youth". The program grew into a number of services, now administered by the Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation.[46]

Other notable peopleEdit

Yuendumu leaders who were awarded the Centenary Medal in 2001, which commemorates 100 years of Federation and recognises "citizens and other people who made a contribution to Australian society or government" include Wendy Nungarrayi Brown[47] and Rex Granites.[48]

Yuendumu is the home community of Indigenous activist and former NT Government minister Bess Nungarrayi Price.

Artist Pauline Nakamarra Woods grew up in Yuendumu.[49]

Artist Kumantje Jagamara went to the mission school in Yuendumu.[50]

Artist Alma Nungarrayi Granites lived in Yuendumu.[51]

In the arts and mediaEdit

The town is mentioned in the 1987 Midnight Oil song "Beds are Burning" (from the Diesel and Dust album): Four wheels scare the cockatoos/From Kintore east to Yuendumu. Midnight Oil and Warumpi Band's 1986 tour to Yuendumu is documented in Andrew McMillan's book Strict Rules: The BlackfellaWhitefella Tour.[citation needed]

In The 2005 PlayStation 2 Video Game Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, the second chapter "Rumble Down Under" takes place in a fictional Yuendumu in the Australian outback, which is a mining and digging site.[citation needed]


Climate data for Yuendumu
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 46.5
Average high °C (°F) 36.5
Average low °C (°F) 22.4
Record low °C (°F) 13.5
Average rainfall mm (inches) 64.9
Average rainy days 6.3 6.2 3.9 2.2 2.8 2.0 1.8 1.4 2.1 4.1 5.4 6.0 44.2
Source: [4]


  1. ^ a b c "Place Names Register Extract for Yuendumu". NT Place Names Register. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  2. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Yuendumu (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 5 June 2019.  
  3. ^ a b "Yuendumu Postcode". postcode-finders.com.au. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Yuendumu". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 26 November 2011.
  5. ^ "Division of Gwoja". Northern Territory Electoral Commission. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  6. ^ "Federal electoral division of Lingiari". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
  7. ^ "Yeundumu". NT Atlas and Spatial Data Directory. Northern Territory Government. February 2005. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Localities within Central Desert Shire (sic) (map)" (PDF). Northern Territory Government. 2 April 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2019.
  9. ^ Meggitt, 1962:28; O'Grady, 1955: ch. 8.
  10. ^ "Francis McGarry and the 'little flower black mission': Encounters of a Catholic lay missionary with indigenous people of central Australia 1935-1944". Ninti One. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  11. ^ Baptists in Australia; O'Grady, 1955:118.
  12. ^ Find & Connect Web Resource Project, The University of Melbourne and Australian Catholic University. "Yuendumu Native Settlement - Organisation - Find & Connect - Northern Territory". findandconnect.gov.au. Retrieved 27 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Yuendumu – Major". BushTel. Northern Territory Government. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  14. ^ Central Desert Shire Council (14 September 2011). Yuendumu (PDF) (Map). SLAP Map, 198.
  15. ^ BushTel - Remote Communities of the Northern Territory
  16. ^ BushTel - Remote Communities of the Northern Territory
  17. ^ a b "History". Warlukurlangu. 2021. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  18. ^ a b "Tradition and Transformation". National Gallery of Victoria. 12 March 2011. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011.
  19. ^ a b c Mabin, Saskia (17 July 2021). "History-changing Yuendemu Doors lead Indigenous dreaming art to China and beyond". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  20. ^ "Yuendumu School Doors". Aboriginal Art Online. 10 November 2017. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  21. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 203. ISBN 978-1-876622-47-3.
  22. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 209. ISBN 978-1-876622-47-3.
  23. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-876622-47-3.
  24. ^ Gosford, Robert (19 May 2016). "Vale Judy Napangardi Watson, 1925 - 2016 - Warlpiri artist and force of nature - The Northern Myth". The Northern Myth. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  25. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 206. ISBN 978-1-876622-47-3.
  26. ^ "Lucy Napaljarri". Dictionary of Australian Artists Online. 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
  27. ^ "Australian Honours Search Facility: Kennedy, Lucy Napaljarri". It's an honour. Australian Government. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 2 August 2021.
  28. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 207. ISBN 978-1-876622-47-3.
  29. ^ Haskin, Emma (17 August 2022). "Warlukurlangu artists from Yuendumu sell 250k in paintings at Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  30. ^ Warlpiri Media Association
  31. ^ Bush Mechanics!
  32. ^ ABC TV Documentaries: Bush Mechanics
  33. ^ Aboriginal Rules
  34. ^ Korff, Jens (21 December 2018). "Bush Mechanics (Film)". Creative Spirits. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  35. ^ "Bush Mechanics: The Exhibition Goes on Tour". The Upsider. 23 February 2018. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  36. ^ Paul, Mandy (2017). Bolognese, Michelangelo (ed.). A book entitled Bush mechanics: from Yuendumu to the world was. Wakefield Press. ISBN 9781743055151. OCLC 1003642387. Retrieved 20 August 2020. This catalogue and the exhibition it accompanies are the result of a partnership between the National Motor Museum (a museum of the History Trust of South Australia) and Pintubi Anmatjere Warlpiri (PAW) Media (Worldcat entry)
  37. ^ Yuendumu CEC
  38. ^ Macklin gets out the scissors as Yuendumu pool opens | Crikey
  39. ^ Under Construction: yuendumumagpies.com
  40. ^ footballcentralaustralia.com https://web.archive.org/web/20090724150757/http://www.footballcentralaustralia.com/afl-football-alice-springs/premiers. Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ In the red dirt Demon president delivers on promise - RFNews - theage.com.au
  42. ^ Mt Theo Program
  43. ^ It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours
  44. ^ It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours
  45. ^ It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours
  46. ^ "About Us". Warlpiri Youth Development Aboriginal Corporation. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  47. ^ It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours
  48. ^ It's an Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours
  49. ^ "Pauline Nakamarra Woods b. 1949". Design and Art Australia Online. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  50. ^ Johnson, Vivien (1994). Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert: A Biographical Dictionary. Craftsman house. ISBN 978-976-8097-81-1.
  51. ^ Scott Mitchell (2016). ""To the city for dancing": The Women Artists collection and the birth of commercial art practice at Yuendumu". A Cultural Cacophony: Museum Perspectives and Projects (PDF). Museums Galleries Australia (NSW). pp. 86–102. ISBN 9781741384499. Retrieved 31 March 2022.

Further readingEdit

  • Campbell, Liam (2006) Darby: One hundred years of life in a changing culture, Sydney, ABC Books.
  • Daly A and Barrett G. (2014) Independent Cost Benefit Analysis of the Yuendumu Mediation and Justice Committee Alice Springs: Central Desert Regional Council. https://www.centraldesert.nt.gov.au/sites/centraldesert.nt.gov.au/files/attachments/yuendumu_cba_0.pdf
  • Dussart, Francoise (2000) The politics of ritual in an aboriginal settlement: kinship, gender, and the currency of knowledge, Washington D.C., Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Meggitt, Mervyn J. (1962) Desert people: A study of the Walpiri Aborigines of Central Australia, Angus & Robertson, London.
  • Musharbash, Yasmine (2008) Yuendumu everyday: intimacy, immediacy and mobility in a remote Aboriginal settlement, Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press
  • Musharbash, Yasmine (2002) "Yuendumu CDEP: The Warlpiri work ethic and Kardiya staff turnover", pp. 153 – 166 in F. Morphy and W.G. Sanders (ed), The Indigenous Welfare Economy and the CDEP Scheme Research Monograph No. 21, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University E Press
  • O'Grady, Frank (1955), Francis of Central Australia, Sydney, Wentworth Books.

External linksEdit