Irrunytju, Western Australia
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Irrunytju (also called Wingellina) is a small Aboriginal community in Western Australia. It is located in the Goldfields-Esperance region, about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) southwest of the Surveyor Generals Corner (where the borders of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory meet). There are about 150 people living in the community, most of whom are Ngaanyatjarra.
The town is surrounded by the Wingellina Hills, a set of large granite hills with mulga and mallee growth. The name of the community, irrunytju, comes from the name of a sacred site located in the hills to the south.
History[change | change source]
The area was part of the Central Australia Aboriginal Reserve when the reserve was created in 1922. In 1955, however, the borders of the reserve were moved to allow for mining and prospecting, mostly of nickel. Mining camps were set up in the area around what is now Irrunytju. In response, Aboriginal families moved to settle around these camps. Some got jobs with the miners and were paid in food rations; others were simply there to protect places of spiritual importance from outsiders. Some companies took steps to make sure their miners respected these sites; other companies did not, and several sacred sites were damaged during this period. The area was made part of the reserve again in 1972.
Once the miners left, the Aboriginal families stayed and built a permanent settlement using what was left from the mining camps (shelters, bores, etc.). The community was also given money from the federal government to help establish a permanent settlement. The community became incorporated in 1976. It became a member of the Ngaanyatjarra Council in 1981.
Irrunytju has remained on Aboriginal land since 1972. Economic activities in the area are governed under the Ngaanyatjarra Indigenous Land Use Agreement, formed in 2006. The community maintains many traditional activities, such as hunting and gathering bush tucker. The community has had its own art centre, Irrunytju Arts, since 2001.