Tennant Creek & Barkly Region

The Bark­ly Region is a huge expanse of land that cov­ers more than 300,000 square kilo­me­tres from the trop­i­cal north to the arid desert south. It is an area larg­er than Vic­to­ria or New Zealand. The town of Ten­nant Creek is locat­ed between Kather­ine and Alice Springs along the Stu­art High­way.

Ten­nant Creek has a pop­u­la­tion of approx­i­mate­ly 3,500 peo­ple. It is the fifth largest town in the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry and is ser­viced by:

  • a pri­ma­ry school and high school 
  • two day­care facilities
  • super­mar­ket
  • post office
  • gym­na­si­um
  • a town swim­ming pool
  • sev­er­al pubs and clubs
  • sev­er­al restaurants. 

Pop­u­lar tourist attrac­tions in the area include:

  • Lake Mary Anne Dam 
  • Bat­tery Hill Min­ing Centre
  • Nyink­ka Nyun­yu Cul­tur­al Centre 
  • the Devil’s Mar­bles rock formations 
  • Wycliffe Well the UFO cap­i­tal of Australia 
  • 4WD tracks.

Abo­rig­i­nal History

Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple have lived in the Bark­ly Region for over 40,000 years. The area around what is now the town of Ten­nant Creek was used by Waru­mungu peo­ple dur­ing times of drought due to the pres­ence of per­ma­nent water holes. 

When the Ten­nant Creek Tele­graph sta­tion was built in the 1870s the Waru­mungu peo­ple expe­ri­enced their first inter­ac­tions with Euro­peans, some worked for the sta­tion and received rations. 

From the 1880s onwards, as vast tracts of Waru­mungu coun­try were grant­ed as pas­toral leas­es and stocked with cat­tle, Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were unable to con­duct their tra­di­tion­al hunt­ing and gath­er­ing prac­tices. Peo­ple were forced to set­tle on sta­tions or the Abo­rig­i­nal reserve. Many men worked as stock-men, drovers, butch­ers and gar­den­ers. Women car­ried out domes­tic work in the sta­tion hous­es. Pay­ment was gen­er­al­ly in rations only and con­di­tions were usu­al­ly poor.

The dis­cov­ery of gold in the 1930s saw the estab­lish­ment of the town­ship of Ten­nant Creek. It was off lim­its to Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple until the 1960s. Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple worked on the gold mines, many of which were locat­ed on what had been the Waru­mungu Reserve.

The fed­er­al Labor Gov­ern­ment led by Gough Whit­lam adopt­ed the pol­i­cy of self-deter­mi­na­tion’ for Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties in 1972. This pol­i­cy saw Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple move, or return to Ten­nant Creek from cat­tle sta­tions and Warrabri Abo­rig­i­nal set­tle­ment (Ali Curung). Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple now make up over half of the pop­u­la­tion of Ten­nant Creek and near­ly 70% of the greater Bark­ly population.

Lan­guage Groups

Many Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple speak sev­er­al dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Fre­quent­ly Eng­lish is a third or even fourth lan­guage. Lan­guages spo­ken through­out the Bark­ly Region include:

  • Waru­mungu
  • Warl­man­pa
  • Warlpiri
  • Jin­gu­lu
  • Garawa
  • Mud­bur­ra
  • Kayte­tye
  • Alyawarr
  • Anmaty­err
  • Wambaya