About Patjarr

Patjarr or Karilywara is located in the Clutterbuck Hills between Lake Cobb and Lake Newell, 240km north-west of Warburton. The residents are Pintupi speaking people.


The Pintupi people who now live at Patjarr were one of the last groups of Aboriginal people in Australia to be contacted by non-Aboriginals. In 1965 geologists working for Union Oil Development Corporation recorded many sightings of Aborigines still living a traditional lifestyle around the Clutterbuck Hills. In 1968 the ethnographic film-maker Ian Dunlop of Film Australia together with anthropologist Robert Tonkinson documented the traditional subsistence activities of the Pintupi people living in the Clutterbuck Hills. Native Patrol Officers were bringing people into Warburton Mission from this area as late as the early 70’s.

At this time, many Warburton residents had become more “sophisticated” in European ways through their contact with the mission and the Pintupi were often ridiculed for their “bush” manners and customs. Feeling uncomfortable and unwelcome, many left to live in fringe camps on the edge of the gold mining towns like Wiluna. In 1979 a large group of Pintupi people from Warburton camped at Tika Tika rockholes just south of Patjarr, for two months while they made a “cutline” (vehicle track) to their traditional water sources. This involved the construction of a 90km hand hewn road from the Gunbarrell Highway.

By the late 1980’s a slow return to their homelands had begun. By 1993 a large group of people were living at the outstation without a mechanised water supply, no fabricated buildings and no electricity or store goods. Today Patjarr Community has houses, a permanent water supply, and store and clinic facilities.

Whilst they had been away, a large portion of their country had been declared a Nature Reserve (Gibson Desert Nature Reserve) without their knowledge or consent. A Nature Reserve prohibits hunting and gathering activities and the construction of living areas. In 1993 the Ngaanyatjarra Council on behalf of the Pintupi lodged a submission to have an excision for a permanent living area in the Nature Reserve. The community and the area surrounding it was returned to the traditional owners under lease from the Aboriginal Lands Trust.

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