Tjuntjuntjara Tjukupa (Story)
Tjuntjuntjara community is situated 700km east of Kalgoorlie, approximately 12 hours’ drive, in the Spinifex region of south-east WA. It is within the local government Shire of Menzies.
The Tjuntjuntjara community falls within the boundaries of the Great Victoria Desert Nature Reserve. It is connected to Irrunytju (Wingellina) in the north by a rough track.
The community was established in 1988 after a water bore was drilled at the location. Tjuntjunjara acts as a service centre for a number of outstations including Iltun, Pirapi, Ilkulka, Wyarra, Tuwan, and Yakudunya. These outstations are occupied at certain times of the year for cultural and hunting and gathering purposes.
A roadhouse was established at Ilkurlka on the Spinifex Highway (Anne Beadell Highway) in 2004.
The Tjuntjunjara community members are part of a larger group known as ‘the Spinifex People’, who were removed from their homelands (which range across the WA and SA border lands)prior to the British atomic testing at Maralinga in the 1950s and 1960’s.
Many of the people now living at Tjuntjuntjara previously lived at the Government mission at Cundelee, off the train line near Zanthus, which are located about 200 kilometres east of Kalgoorlie.
The ‘Spinifex People’ living on the South Australian side of the border have their main settlements at Oak Valley and Yalata and are represented by the Maralinga Tjarutja administrative body.
Tjuntjuntjara Community was established in the late 1980s after a core group of senior traditional people from Cundeelee Mission (which was being closed) led members back into tribal lands to the north rather than settle in a newly established community nearby at Coonana station. The movement back into country was a determined and focused effort by the old people to insist on traditional strengths as the primary basis for the community's future. After staging from a temporary camp at Yakadunya the community was ultimately located near the soak known as Tjuntjuntjara in the southern portion of lands traditionally owned by the Spinifex People.
Tjuntjuntjara has a regular population of around 150 people although cultural events have attracted several hundred visitors at one time. All assets are held by the incorporated body and the community is governed by a local Council. All major decisions are taken before the community.
Since establishing a secure living area within traditional lands at Tjuntjuntjara the community has steadily grown and developed into a stable and important focus for the regional cultural cycles of Western Desert life. As the community has been established, people from throughout the region with traditional attachment to the area have returned to live at Tjuntjuntjara. Although the isolation and lack of infrastructure are features of life out near the WA/SA border, the Spinifex people's determination has served to highlight the importance and stability of a strong traditional community within the region.
Tjuntjuntjara is now home to a number of world-renowned artists working in paint and wood (carving). Revenue from the art sales, often in Europe, generates a second income stream.
The administrative and services body of the community, Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation, is located at Tjuntjunjara. It takes responsibility for the maintenance of the community facilities and roads and for the operation of the office, store and other services