The Central Land Council executive committee met with Police Commissioner Mr Michael Murphy and Arrernte police officer Brad Wallace in Alice Springs on Wednesday 19 June to discuss community concerns about racist behaviour in the NT police force.

The executive members were hoping for a public apology from Commissioner Murphy after he admitted in early June that he had been ‘too busy’ to order an investigation into racist behaviour among elite police officers.

This inaction is particularly egregious, considering there has also been no response to APO NT’s request for an apology from Police Minister Brent Potter for denying the existence of racism in the NT police force, a denial that blatantly disregards the lived experiences of Aboriginal people.

Deputy chair Warren Williams expressed deep disappointment, “While Commissioner Murphy expressed concern and understood our urgent call for an investigation into racism in the NT police force, the refusal to make a public apology shows the entrenched disregard for Aboriginal people.”

Furthermore, the rejection of an independent review called for by APO NT is another devastating blow to Aboriginal people throughout the Northern Territory. This refusal highlights the systemic resistance to accountability within the police force.

Commissioner Murphy acknowledged that there are problems and things have to change, including what measures police will take to achieve this change.

Mr Williams noted, “The CLC is pleased that Leanne Liddle has been brought in to help fix problems in the force, and she has said that she will be at the end of the phone to hear from us when police behave badly, don’t respect local knowledge, or treat Aboriginal people differently when they are called to an incident. We will take her up on that offer.”

Aboriginal representation in the police force is only 12 percent. If Commissioner Murphy’s goal is to reach 30 percent, not just through Aboriginal Community Police and Aboriginal Liaison Officers but all ranks, including senior leadership, this will need sustained and concerted effort far beyond token gestures.

Certificate pathways for Night Patrol workers to become Aboriginal Liaison Officers or Aboriginal Community Police Officers are welcome but need resourcing and implementation.

It was encouraging to hear about establishing a new police station and women’s shelter in Alpurrurulam and supporting local communities’ involvement in recruiting new police officers.

Mr Williams said, “So many communities still have empty police stations and no police. We are forced to call triple zero to get help when serious incidents happen, and we don’t know how the police will behave towards us when they get here.”

“These actions are needed, but the issues of racism go very deep. We understand Commissioner Murphy wants our trust and to work together. We need to see big and lasting changes in the NT police force before we give him that trust. Once we see his plan for fixing the police and he starts acting on that plan, we can begin to rebuild trust.”

Executive member Valerie Martin said, “Our people are still hurting. The Walker death was a tragedy, and the coronial inquest made that pain worse. There are families in Yuendumu that need more support and are still traumatised. We can see there is goodwill, but we will wait and see. The proof will be in the outcomes.”

The time for vague promises and delayed actions is over. The NT police force must take immediate, transparent steps to eradicate racism and rebuild the shattered trust with Aboriginal people.

Warlpiri woman Alice Henwood is an expert tracker from Nyirripi.(ABC Alice Springs: Victoria Ellis)

“Nyiya Nyampuju?” What is this?

The call rings out across the red clay and sand.

The voice belongs to Warlpiri woman Alice Henwood from Nyirripi, a small community about 400 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs.

“Nyiya Nyampuju?” she asks again.

The group of people, spread out like the tufts of spinifex across the land, slowly gather around to look at where she is pointing.

They are quiet.

Alice knows the answer to her question, but right now she is teaching.

Finally, someone speaks up.

“Wardilyka,” Bush turkey, he guesses correctly.

The questions continue.

“Ngana-kurlangu?” Whose is it? “Nyarrpara-purda?” Which direction?

A group of people are tested on their tracking knowledge.(ABC Alice Springs: Victoria Ellis)

Over and over she asks the group with each new set of tracks that are found.

There are many of the puluku, cow.

There’s also the ngaya, cat, the puwujuma, fox, the warnapari, dingo and excitingly, the endangered walpajirri, bilby.

Full story here: Warlpiri preserve language, culture through animal tracking program for next generation – ABC News

Jeffrey Curtis has been waiting a long time for a new ranger hub in Tennant Creek, but now it’s come — and he’s looking forward to seeing how it helps young people in the remote Northern Territory town.

The new Muru-warinyi Ankkul Ranger base, built by an Aboriginal-owned construction company, is bigger and airier than the last, with modern amenities.

The ranger group had previously been splitting their operations between two locations, but the upgraded single site replaces what was basically “a very old shed”, according to Mr Curtis.

“I’ve been waiting for a new one for a very, very long time, maybe 10 or 15 years,” he said.

“I’m very happy for this new ranger hub and I hope it can do better for the future for our young ones.”

An Aboriginal man wearing a cap and blue work shirt looks at the camera in front a Tennant Creek Ranger Workshed sign.
Ranger Jeffrey Curtis hopes the new Tennant Creek hub will benefit young people in the community.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Rangers as role models

Muru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers was established in 2003 and is one of the oldest Central Land Council ranger groups.

The rangers care for country by monitoring plants, animals and water, but they have also mentored Tennant Creek high school students; up until the work experience program was stopped due to COVID-19.

Ranger Kylie Sambo said she hoped to restart the program.

“It [learning about country] starts early. If they know it when they’re young, it’s easy for them when they are older to get back to their roots,” she said.

“This is just a fun way of trying to work with non-Indigenous people on country.”

An Aboriginal woman wearing a navy work shirt holds onto the frame of a buggy in a work shed and looks at the camera
Ranger Kylie Sambo would like to restart a work experience program from the hub.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Tennant Creek has long been facing problems of youth crime, but Ms Sambo knows first-hand the power of positive role models.

“When I was at school I would go on a lot of trips with Central Land Council and write up essays about what we were doing on country and that would give me credit with school,” she said.

“That helped me a lot with being on the streets and doing all of these things that are happening now.

“I watched them [rangers] as a kid first and then said to myself, ‘I’m gonna be a ranger some day’. And sure enough, I am.”

Two Aboriginal women rangers stand on either side of a fence, putting it together.
The Muru-warinyi Ankkul Rangers is one of the oldest Central Land Council ranger groups.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

New hub cooler and closer

The new ranger shed has a large fan, lockers, a tool cage, welding benches and, outside, a pressure cleaner and wash bay, while the house on the property received a new kitchen, bathroom, furnishings, solar panels and air conditioning.

A new conference space and server room will allow the site to be used as a training facility, while space for heavy equipment storage means the site can be a central hub for other ranger teams from Arlparra, Lajamanu, Daguragu, and Ti Tree.

Three Aboriginal men huddle around a fence post, one uses a sledge hammer to bang it into the ground.
The hub will become a training site for other ranger groups.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Ms Sambo said having a new truck and tractor stationed at the hub will also be a boon, as central regional rangers previously had to travel to Alice Springs to borrow big equipment.

“[The hub] can make a huge difference with the time the rangers spend on roads to get to places and then come back to do the job, and then get that equipment back to where it came from,” she said.

“That’s been one of the biggest problems.”

A woman points at a diagram on a posters on a brick interior wall. A man is listening.
The new hub has modern amenities inside and out, allowing for a wide range of uses. (Supplied: Central Land Council)

Modern way of caring for country

Ms Sambo said the new hub would help her work on country and learn about her culture.

“And I’m being paid to do that, which is very important, because with this society we live in, everything revolves around having funding, having money to do so,” she said.

“The ranger program that’s in place allows us to tackle jobs given to us by traditional owners and that is also deeply important to us, because we are connected to the country.

“This is just a modern way of taking care of country and taking care of family and taking care of the plants and animals.”

A woman wearing fire safe clothing hold a fire lighter and lights the grass in an savanna.
Rangers say the new hub will help them work more efficiently on projects including traditional burning.(Supplied: Central Land Council)

Mr Curtis said the rangers made him proud.

“[I’m] very happy with my group. We were established from 2003, but we’re still going,” he said.

“This ranger group has achieved a lot — a lot of training has been done and a lot of land management and conservation … it’s made us a stronger group.”

An ABC news story posted 20 Feb 2024

Tennant Creek’s new Muru-warinyi Ankkul Ranger hub a welcome upgrade for working, training – ABC News

The old store in Engawala has been given a new lease of life, opening as an arts centre.

With few jobs in the community, Engawala’s many talented artists now have a dedicated space to work and earn an income from arts and crafts sales.

Tourists often drop in on Engawala, 200 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs, because the community is next to the Alcoota fossil fields. Those visitors now have a proper place to view and buy the artists’ work.

“The community are really supportive of the arts centre. Especially the board as well and Joy Turner, the elder for this community,” arts centre manager and Engawala local Janine Tilmouth said.

“We did this project so that there was a chance for people to have work and also to have their own community-owned arts centre, instead of someone else coming in and running it,” she said.

They first talked about turning the old store into an arts centre four years ago.

The community allocated a total of $145,000 to the renovation, which was made up of community lease money and matched funds from the National Indigenous Australians Agency.

Four residents then met with the Central Land Council’s community development team and Tangentyere Constructions to work out the details.

“The workers gave the old store a good clean-out and got electricity, benches and drawers,” resident artist Sharon Tilmouth said.

They boarded up some doors and fixed broken windows to make the building safe.

“We had to wait a while to get the work done, but Tangentyere Constructions did a good job,” Janine Tilmouth said.

“They listened to the community and suggested what would be good, with the sink and putting the drawers in.”

Tangentyere Constructions hired local residents Stewart Schaber and Leanne Dodd for some of the work and finished the job within six weeks.

“I helped pull out the fridges and I was painting the wall and glazing the floor. It’s the first time I’ve done this kind of work,” Ms Dodd said.

“I liked getting to work on time and communicating with the other workers.”

She also helped Tangentyere’s Aboriginal tradies Corey Coull and Adrian Shaw to coat the floor and install the benches and trolleys.

Ms Dodds is a local artist and helped the other artists with the designs painted on the floor.

The locals took over the centre ahead of the official launch in August.

“The arts centre looks good inside now. We’ve already started to work in the arts centre, doing paintings. I’m working at the shop now.”

Volunteers from Community First Development, a national organisation which connects skilled volunteers with Aboriginal communities, Taffy Denmark and Marella Pettinato were a big part of the project.

They helped write a business plan and sourced a $100,000 grant from the Aboriginals Benefit Account to paint the old store and build a shade structure. Now the artists can paint outside in good weather.

The money also paid for an eco-toilet, art equipment, insurances, governance training and project management.

During a year-long construction delay staff took part in intensive administration training.

“I got a lot of training from the volunteer Marella, for admin and bookkeeping and getting work-ready for the auditor. It’s a lot of work and I’ve learnt a lot,” said Janine Tilmouth.

Artists are also getting training from art professionals, and 12 community members have enrolled with the Batchelor College to complete visual arts certificates.

“The ladies have been screen printing,” Sharon Tilmouth said. “There was a workshop and one lady taught us. Lots of ladies have been using the arts centre and they’re happy with it.”

A $400,000 grant from the Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support program pays for a website, the wages of two local art workers for two years and covers the costs of attending interstate art fairs.

Janine Tilmouth said the centre will build on sales through the art fairs and allow them to explore other markets.

“Maybe we can take our artworks to the cities, spread the word and add more to the website,” she said.

The Engawala art centre shows what can be achieved when Aboriginal people work with a lot of different people and organisations to drive their own development.

The money for this project came from the income the community receives from leases of its land and a three-year trial by the CLC and the NIAA.

The matched funds trial funds groups that use new income from land use agreements for community driven projects, but may not have enough money for the projects they want.

If you would like more information about this work please visit

Young rider riding over the sun of the Aboriginal flag on the hip, a special feature of the skatepark the young people helped design.

Ltyentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) has become the first remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory to fund its very own outdoor concrete skate park. 

Nicky Hayes, Eastern Arrernte man and Spinifex Skateboards founder, has been the driving force behind this project.

A keen skateboarder since the age of 11, he became one of the few Aboriginal skateboarders to compete professionally and the NT’s first Aboriginal qualified skateboard instructor.

His next goal was to bring the benefits of skate boarding to his community, 80 kilometres south east of Alice Springs.

Ltyentye Apurte started out with a single skate ramp in 2017 and upgraded to a wooden double storey skate course in the recreation hall.

It launched the outdoor skate park last September. 

“This is my way of giving back to community,” Mr Hayes said.

“Having an indoor park, and then from the indoor park to this outdoor park here right now.”

“An outdoor skate park brings a bit more to the community, but also more to young people and families as well. “

For the past four years he has run weekly skateboarding workshops at the recreation hall and the basketball court with the Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation and the youth program of the MacDonnell Regional Council.

“I wanted the skate park to improve the wellbeing of the kids in Ltyentye Apurte,” Mr Hayes said.

“To ensure they stay active and to have an outdoor skate park where families can hang out and accommodate young people’s needs of having fun within a safe space for skateboards, bikes and scooters.”

The skate park near the store, footy oval and basketball court has become another place where residents socialise and enjoy sport.

Mr Hayes took his idea for the $436,600 outdoor skate park to a community meeting two years ago.

A local working group that plans projects with the Central Land Council agreed to fund some of the project cost from Ltyentye Apurte’s community lease income and income from a pilot project of the CLC and the National Indigenous Australian Agency, on the condition that grant funding make up the balance.

“The working group were happy to be part of something that is unique, to be the first community to have an outdoor skate park,” Mr Hayes said.

The community’s Atyenhenge Atherre Aboriginal Corporation and the CLC’s community development team helped the working group to get the project done.

The CLC sourced the grant from the Aboriginals Benefit Account that made the park possible.

Construction started last August, with designers Eastbywest and builders from Grind Projects working every day to complete the park in five weeks.

The local kids made the park their own by painting parts of it with their designs. A painted Aboriginal flag also features prominently.

The community has plans to put in a shelter and landscaping to soften the area and add shade.

Some of the best skateboarders in the country came for the opening of the park to celebrate this Australian skateboarding history event.

Mr Hayes hopes they will keep coming back.

“Bringing competitions here might be a great thing as well, down the track,” he said.

For now he is just happy that the local kids visit the park every day until dark, spending less time on their screens.

“It has been tremendous to see all the kids in the community having fun and enjoying themselves each day.”

Warlpiri elders and expert trackers are leading a program in northern Australia to teach younger generations how to read Country.

In June 2022, some of the most respected elders of the Warlpiri nation gathered for a workshop in Lajamanu, a remote town in the northern Tanami Desert, south of Kalkarindji. It was one of the largest such gatherings in recent years and, were it not for the flies, it could have been the Roman senate: here were the elders of the nation, gathered to discuss the great issues of the day. One minute they were talking about complex matters of law and ceremony and custom. The next they debated the intricacies of Warlpiri language and stories of the past.

Any resemblance to the ancient Romans was truly ended by the fact of women being at the heart of this gathering; they wore beanies and cast-off clothes. There was much laughter, mobile phones rang often, and arguments erupted over such topics as which species of snake had left behind tracks across the red sand nearby. This was especially significant, for the elders in attendance were also the Warlpiri’s kuyu pungu, or master trackers.

Many, perhaps even most, of those present grew up in the desert or out bush. There, they learnt to read the tracks of the animals: which animal left the tracks, where it was travelling, and how long ago it passed by. The kuyu pungu at the Lajamanu workshop were from a long line of Warlpiri people who grew up learning how to read the country. Over time, they entered into an intimacy with the land that went to every aspect of their lives – kinship, ceremony, survival. The current kuyu pungu, those gathered at Lajamanu, were the last in that long line.

By the time that most of the workshop’s participants had reached adolescence, their desert lives were if not lost then much curtailed. Travelling between missions, cattle stations and cities, they worked as drovers and domestic help, if at all, returning to country whenever they could. Aside from rare exceptions, their children and grandchildren had little opportunity to learn the old ways. Torn between the lure of the cities and the obligations of the past, the young Warlpiri returned to country at weekends, if they were lucky, where they picked up fragments.

This is why the Warlpiri elders gathered in Lajamanu. Part of an ongoing project known as Yitaki Mani (“Reading the Country”), the aim of the workshop was to find a way to bridge that gap between generations, to address the possibility that some knowledge may soon be lost forever, and to find new ways to teach a people who no longer grow up on country. Run by the Central Land Council, the program and the workshop – and other workshops like it across Warlpiri country – faced the most daunting of tasks: to distil thousands of years of lived knowledge into teaching materials and techniques that could work in a classroom.

Witnessing the sessions – which ran under the guidance of Warlpiri elders, pastor Jerry Jangala and Myra Herbert Nungarrayi and others, assisted by linguists and anthropologists – was like watching an encyclopaedia unfold in real time. Flow charts emerged, the frequent use of photos maintained the visual essence of the experience, and field trips – to Emu Rockhole or the track to Tennant Creek – kept things practical. There were times when momentum seemed to unravel. On one of the excursions, a goanna had the misfortune to appear close by. Consequently, much of the day was “lost” as everyone shared a goanna feast around an impromptu fire. But like other seeming distractions – a sudden recitation of a Dreaming story, or an unplanned detour down a side track to honour a cultural obligation – these moments deepened the stories and the ability of these kuyu pungu to tell them.

“We have to make sure we all have all the knowledge, that knowledge of how to read the country. And that knowledge comes in many ways,” says Jangala. “We need this knowledge if we are to get back the old Warlpiri ways.”

The establishment of the Yitaki Mani program reflects changes in Australia regarding First Nations peoples, and builds on those defining points in the process of reconciliation. Recognition of citizenship in 1967, the development of land rights in the 1970s and the outstation movement in the 1980s all represented the move away from the nation’s integrationist impulse.

Yitaki Mani builds on this process, drawing from another nation-shifting development: Indigenous ranger programs. Running for more than 15 years, the establishment of these initiatives has expanded across the country, and there are now around 130 federally funded ranger programs, with additional state-funded groups. Most of them operate on Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs).

So successful have ranger programs become that their funding became a campaign issue during the 2022 federal election. The Morrison government promised to double the funding for Indigenous rangers, to $686 million over eight years. Labor matched this commitment and added $10 million per year to expand the programs.

From a conservation perspective, every now and then work undertaken through the ranger program makes headlines, and is credited with significant successes. Indigenous ranger groups have, for example, been central to the discovery of new night parrot populations across Western Australia.

Stephen van Leeuwen, the Indigenous chair of biodiversity and environmental science at Curtin University in Perth, says ranger programs have enabled conservation activities to operate on a much broader scale than would be possible through scientific programs working alone. “You can’t have an IPA without a ranger program. And you can’t have an IPA ranger program without a healthy country plan. You’ve got a workforce and people who want to be there.”

Van Leeuwen recognises the importance of elder knowledge in the process of engaging the younger rangers. “Yes, you want to empower [First Nations peoples] by giving them meaningful work. But the elders in the communities want to manage the country, and that commitment quickly flows on to the younger people in the community. They want to look after their country … Lots of the threatened species that are still extant are on the Indigenous conservation estate in the deserts and in northern Australia, so there must be something good happening there.”

The ranger program is also driving a wider re-evaluation of traditional forms of knowledge and storytelling. Successes like that of the night parrot “demonstrate the power of proper two-way science”, says Steve Murphy, an ecologist who has worked extensively with traditional owners. “Indigenous people were highly attuned and acutely aware of all aspects of the environment that they were living in over millennia. So the observational-based science that they built up was incredibly detailed. In many cases, people aren’t living 24/7 on country and aren’t needing to get their whole subsistence from these landscapes. It’s pedalled back a little – it’s more a knowledge about place and landscape. But it’s still there, and it’s better than any [geographic information system] and remote-sensing analyst can give us.”

Much has also been lost, Murphy acknowledges. “Historically, a lot of that ecological knowledge would have been held by people, but it’s gone. We have to acknowledge that it has gone from so many places. And that is another very important and often overlooked role of two-way science – rekindling and rebuilding that knowledge.”

It is with this backdrop of loss and renewal that the Yitaki Mani project carries such potential. If it is successful, its organisers hope benefits won’t be restricted to the Warlpiri. The conceptual frameworks and teaching materials will become available to other communities, enabling them to tap into their own deep wells of knowledge.

It is, as ever, a race against time, something of which the elders at the Lajamanu workshop are keenly aware. “Some of the young ones are interested, and want to learn more,” says Jerry Jangala. “But some are losing their culture, their ceremony, everything. It’s not good for our people. It’s not good for Australia. Our country will be lost. That’s why we’re here. To teach them another way to learn. After all, one day I won’t be here with you.”

Article written by Anthony Ham and published in The Monthly.

Join Bronwen Cavanagh, from the Ltyentye Apurte Rangers, and Kitana Shaw, from the Aputula Rangers, to learn new skills and help family protect country and culture. The two award-winning rangers have worked behind and in front of the camera to bring you this video.

The ignorance expressed about the voice is only surpassed by the lack of knowledge about the rigorous process that led us to it.
Nationals leader David Littleproud and Country Liberal party senator Jacinta Price with Nationals members and senators
Nationals leader David Littleproud and Country Liberal party senator Jacinta Price with Nationals members and senators. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

I wonder who Senator Jacinta Price is referring to when she talks of “my people”.

She can’t mean the people I work for – 90 democratically elected Aboriginal men and women from the towns, remote communities and hundreds of tiny homelands of the southern half of the Northern Territory. People aged between 20 and 80, who are elected for three-year terms, meet three times a year out bush and who, for the past five years, have consistently expressed their strong support for the constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament the senator opposes.

A voice that allows local representatives to be heard about laws and policies that affect them and offer solutions informed by their unique knowledge and lived experience. What could be more practical? What could be fairer, more modest and unifying?

View the full feature article online here

A federal plan to protect threatened species has neglected almost all of central Australia and will not stop extinctions, wildlife advocates say.

The 10-year Threatened Species Action Plan was released last month, highlighting 20 important natural places and 110 national species of concern to be prioritised for protection.

Mount Sonder at dawn in the West MacDonnell National Park.
Central Australia’s only priority area

Through the Northern Territory’s Central Land Council, traditional owners co-manage the MacDonnell Ranges National Park, which is the only priority area in central Australia listed in the federal plan. 

Eastern Arrente man and land council chief executive Les Turner said rangers were poorly funded and unable to adequately manage the millions of hectares they were responsible for.

View the full feature article online here.

Ninety years after Pitjantjatjara man Yukun was killed by police and his remains sent to museums in Adelaide, he is finally laid to rest.

On the day Yukun was returned to Uluru, his descendants leapt into the deep, narrow grave to help ease him to rest as their elders looked on, weeping.

The ceremony, at the base of the rock on an unusually cold and rainy morning, helped ease the pain of almost 90 years of unfinished business that began with a Northern Territory police shooting in 1934.

View the full feature article online here.

Family arrive at the ceremony.
Family arrive. The ceremony will help answer questions and resolve decades of doubt.