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Emerging from the Hermit Kingdom

For many years, reinforced by remoteness, Ngaanyatjarra Lands have been referred to by some as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’.


The group of 11 communities who came together by choice in 1981 to form the 鶹ֱ, were staunchly independent and rarely reached beyond themselves. Given the difficulty of accessing the lands and the reality that only the most ardent travellers traverse the Gunbarrel Highway en route to cities in the north or south, the label was reasonable.


Increasingly, though, the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ tag is being shaken off as communities seek to engage culturally, economically and socially with individuals and organisations beyond them.


Recognising the necessity for trusted travelling partners committed to journeying with Yarnangu of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands has been pivotal in this emergence.


“We identified that to step into our future, we also needed to step out of the shadows,” said 鶹ֱ CEO, Thomas Williams.


“To live lives of purpose and agency with strong families and strong stories, we also need strong partners.”


“We need to collaborate and co-create with others to realise the potential for our lands and our people—it’s a land rich with culture and stories, as well as economic potential. But to imagine this better future for all, we need to invite those who’ve taken journeys like ours before and learn with them,” Thomas said.


This emergence has gathered pace in recent years.


The establishment of BHP’s West Musgrave mine site in the Mantamaru | Jameson community has demanded astute leadership and stewardship of the potential royalties that will flow.


“We have seen the damage of the ‘resource curse’ in other Aboriginal communities, and we want to learn from that,” Thomas said.

“Being intentional in how we use these royalties for social investment, strong health outcomes, and the future of our people is very important to us.”


“We’ve collectively decided to apportion 30% of royalties for the future of our members: 10% into our savings fund, 10% into a renal fund, and 10% into the operation of our land culture division,” Thomas added.


It’s another level of stewardship that’s made necessary by possibility. Ngaanyatjarra leaders are being invited to the tables of federal ministers because there’s been a growing awareness of the consistent, long-term management of community assets, businesses and programs.


While it hasn’t been a specific goal for the future of Yarnangu, there’s little doubt that the tag of ‘hermit kingdom’ is increasingly being overwhelmed by positive stories of agency, opportunity and possibility on Ngaanyatjarra lands.





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