About Us

Tennant Creek & Barkly Region

A huge expanse that covers more than 300,000 square kilometres from the tropical north to the arid desert south,

Tennant Creek is located between Katherine and Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway in the Barkly Region. 

Tennant Creek was named in 1860 after John Tennant, a pastoralist from Port Lincoln, South Australia by John McDougall Stuart, in gratitude for the financial help Tennant had provided for Stuart's expeditions across Australia. The town itself was declared in 1934, in the midst of Australia's last significant gold rush, and the gold industry became the driving force of the local economy. Mining has always been the backbone of the local economy, the Tennant Creek area contains many known deposits of gold, silver and copper. The town has a diverse history shaped by Aboriginal culture, pastoralism and gold mining.

Tennant Creek has a population of around 3,500 people, the fifth largest town in the Northern Territory and an area larger than Victoria or New Zealand. Tennant Creek has a primary school and high school, and two day care facilities.It has a large sized supermarket, Post Office, Gymnasium, Town Swimming Pool, several pubs and clubs, several good restaurants and many other tourist attractions. Popular tourist attractions include Lake Mary Anne Dam located 5 km north of Tennant Creek which has water in it year round, Battery Hill Mining Centre, Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre, the Devil's Marbles 100km south of Tennant Creek, Wycliffe Well the UFO capital of Australia located 130km south and plenty of 4WD tracks for the avid adventurer.

Climatic conditions throughout the region are semi-arid. Mean daily maximum temperatures range between 23°C in June and 39°C in December with mean daily minimum temperatures of between 7°C in July and 25°C in January. Annual average rainfall is between 600 mm in the north and 300 mm in the south. Rainfall is seasonal with 95 per cent falling between November and April.

Aboriginal History

Tennant Creek is the urban centre of Warumungu country. During the 1970's, the era of the Federal government Self-Determination policy, Aboriginal people began to move or return to Tennant Creek from cattle stations and Warrabri Aboriginal settlement (Ali Curung).

By the 1890's it is estimated that 100 people were living at camps around the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station, some receiving rations, some worked for the station. Many came to the site during the 1891-93 droughts, to the perennial waterholes along the creek, which Warumungu people traditionally used in drought years.

In the 1930's gold was discovered, starting a gold rush, which brought hopefuls from across the country. Aboriginal people worked on the mines, many of which were located on what had been the Warumungu Reserve. Tennant Creek town was established in 1934, at a site 7 miles to the south of the Telegraph Station. It was off limits to Aboriginal people until the 1960's. Warumungu and Alyawarre people also worked at mines in the Davenport Murchinson Ranges, after wolfram discovered at Hatcher's Creek in 1913. Many Aboriginal people spent substantial periods of their lives there and on neighbouring Kurandi Station, where,   in 1977 Aboriginal workers went on strike and staged a walk off.

The life histories of most people include their experiences living on cattle stations, which eventually surrounded the original site of European settlement. Vast tracts of Warumungu country had been granted as pastoral leases and were stocked from the 1880's onwards. Running cattle on   these lands was incompatible with Aboriginal hunting and gathering practices and people were forced to settle on stations or the reserve. Many men worked as stock-men, drovers, butchers and gardeners,   while women carried out domestic work in the station houses. Payment was generally in rations only and conditions were generally very poor.

Language Groups

Many Aboriginal people speak several different languages with English frequently being a third or even fourth language. 50.5% of the total population over 15 years speaks a language other than English at home (ABS National Regional Profile 2006). A map of the language groups is provided in the photos link. In addition to English, there are a range of different languages are used throughout the region and include:

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