The Alinytjara Wilurara Landscape region is a unique part of South Australia, being made up entirely of formally recognised Aboriginal Lands, and public protected areas including conservation parks, nature reserves and wilderness protection areas. This region has a population of approximately 3500 to 4000 people, largely of Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra descent. These people are referred to collectively as Anangu (Pitjantjara for ‘people’), and live in communities and homeland areas distributed throughout the region. The southern part of the region is also the traditional lands of the Kokatha, Mirning and Wirangu people, extending along the Nullarbor from the Western Australian Border through to south of Ceduna and into the Great Victoria Desert.
For many Aboriginal people in the region, there is a deep cultural and spiritual bond with their country, the land or waters with which they have a traditional or contemporary association. This also includes people from outside the region who are connected to it by cultural or family ties. Much of the Aboriginal population is mobile, with the number of people living in a particular area fluctuating due to factors such as the seasons, community events and traditional ceremonies.
There are three areas of Aboriginal owned lands within the region.
Yalata Aboriginal lands
The Yalata Community has a fluctuating population of between 300-500 Aboriginal people depending on the influence of cultural business, sorry business, intense weather events and season. Most community members speak a southern dialect of Pitjantjatjara and live mainly in the Yalata township (Community), which was set up on a pastoral property when the Ooldea Mission closed in 1952. Yalata Land, held in trust through arrangements under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966 is governed at the local level by the Yalata Community Council and covers an area of 456,300 hectares.
Maralinga Tjarutja Lands
The Maralinga Tjarutja (MT) community has a population of about 100 people in 20 families, with many more during cultural activities. They live mainly in Oak Valley, which was originally started as a camp when a group of traditional owners returned to their lands after they were handed back under legislation. The MT community leases the MT Lands, totaling over 100,000 square kilometres, through arrangements under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966. Today, the MT Lands are governed at the local level by MT Council, whose members are elected from the community.
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands
The Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) community has a population of about 2000 Aboriginal people who live in about 20 communities and homelands. Almost 90% of the total APY population speaks Pitjantjatjara or Yankunytjatjara at home. The APY community leases the APY Lands, totalling over 100,000 square kilometres, through arrangements under the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act 1966. Today, the APY Lands are governed at the local level by the APY Executive Board as well as incorporated bodies for many of the APY communities.