About Irrunytju

Irrunytju or Wingellina is located close to the WA / SA border in the Wingellina Hills. These hills are part of the Central Ranges region that stretches from Warburton in the west to the Mann Ranges in South Australia. Irrunytju is named after a site of significance located in the hills to the south of the community.

Individual and small groups of prospectors had been travelling around the Lands as early as the 1900’s. Nickel exploration and chrysoprase mining attracted several large companies including International Nickel and many illegal prospectors. Despite the establishment of the Reserve in 1922 to protect Yarnangu interests, by 1955 a large area from Mt Davies in SA to Jameson in WA had been excised from the Reserve to allow for exploration and mining. This was returned to the Reserve in 1972.

The development of a community in this area was initiated by Yarnangu in response to mining activities in the area during the late 1950’s. Many people came to congregate around the Wingellina mining camps. Some Yarnangu were engaged in work and paid in rations. Others came to protect and live near local sites of significance, in particular those associated with the Papa (Dog) Dreaming, from exploration and mining activity. The existence of sites of significance was acknowledged by some companies who instructed their mining personnel to respect them or be dismissed and / or prosecuted. Some companies even went so far as to hire Yarnangu guides. However not all mining companies were sufficiently sensitive and several sites were damaged. This time is remembered by the Yarnangu as a period of great anxiety.

Once the miners left, Yarnangu stayed and established a permanent community using the existing infrastructure (airstrips, shelters, windmills etc) left from the pre-existing mining camps. The community also received significant funding from the Commonwealth government to fund necessary repairs and expansion to facilitate permanent settlement in the area. The community became incorporated in 1976 and a member of the Ngaanyatjarra Council in 1981. Today the miners have returned. A large deposit of oxide nickel first identified by various companies which are actively exploring options to determine if extraction is economically feasible given the remoteness of this region.

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