About Warakurna

Warakurna is located at the western end of the majestic Rawlinson Ranges. The residents are mostly Ngaanyatjarra speakers. Many of the Traditional Owners experienced their first contact with non-Aboriginals in the late 1930’s with the establishment of the Warburton Mission while for other residents their first contact was in the late 1950’s with the Native Patrol Officers working for the Weapons Research Establishment in Woomera, South Australia.

During the nuclear weapon testing era, Native Patrol Officers were employed by the Government to move the remaining nomadic Yarnangu from their country to Warburton Mission or other government settlements in the region in order to protect them from rocket debris from the “Blue Streak” research project. As a result some Yarnangu from this area were taken to Warburton Mission, and a few others were taken to missions at Jigalong and Balgo in WA and to the government settlement at Papunya in NT.

The work of the Native Patrol Officers was greatly facilitated by the road construction work (including the Gunbarrell Highway) undertaken by Len Beadell who was employed by the Weapons Research Establishment. For the first time the country around the Rawlinson Ranges was opened up to mechanised transport allowing for easier access from the south, west and east. This also allowed for the establishment of the Giles Weather Station on an area excised from the Reserve in 1956 for this purpose. In 1991 this excision was handed over to the Ngaanyatjarra Council who now sub-lease it back to the Commonwealth.

By the 1960’s a new government settlement was established at Docker River, just across the WA / NT border and only 100km north-east of the Giles Weather Station. Many Yarnangu traditionally from the Warakurna area moved to Docker River from Papunya to be closer to their homelands. Docker River provided an ideal base from which people could make visits during holiday periods to the many rockholes at the base of the Rawlinson Ranges. In the early 1970’s several factors, including the availability of government funding for homelands, easier road access, over-crowding at Docker River settlement and Warburton Mission, all combined to make the location of Giles Weather Station ideal for a new community. The Warakurna Community was incorporated in 1976.

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