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