Warburton Ranges Mirlirrtjarra Community is in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Gibson Desert, Western Australia. It is located 1,050kms south west of Alice Springs and 750kms north east of Kalgoorlie on the Great Central Road (Outback Way). The aboriginal people in Warburton still go out hunting and gathering bush tucker in traditional ways. The elders teach the young people about the traditional ways of hunting, gathering and cooking of bush tucker, but they also work within the community painting, making artefacts and artglass. (more info…)
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Warburton is located 1050 kilometres south west of Alice Springs and 920 kilometres north east of Kalgoorlie on the Great Central Highway.
It is situated between the Gibson Desert (to its north) and the Great Victoria Desert (to its south).
At Latitude 26 degrees, 8 min, 30 sec south
Warburton is 1500 feet above sea level.
The community operates on Western Standard time.
NGAANYATJARRAKU SHIRE OFFICE
The community office provides the focus for community employment, government agency services, financial management, and is the seat of the Governing Committee.
LAW AND ORDER
The Court of Petty Sessions, with two Justices of the Peace presiding, sits weekly, at Warburton, or as required.
The Magistrate visits Warburton from Kalgoorlie every month.
A large diesel power house provides 24 hour electricity.
Warburton or Mirlirrtjarra was the first Community to be established on the Lands as a result of the activities of the United Aboriginal Missionaries (UAM) Will and Iris Wade, who established a base at Warburton in the 1930’s. The "Old Well" near the Warburton roadhouse was in fact the first chosen site for the mission.
The community is named after the range of hills (Warburton Ranges) to the north of the community which in turn was named after one of the early European explorers who travelled this region in search of good pastoral land. The community is colloquially referred to as Ranges. The other name for the community is Mirlirrtjarra which is the name of a site nearby. Warburton is the largest of the Ngaanyatjarra Communities and is considered the metropolis of the Lands.
Prior to the establishment of the Warburton Mission, Yarnangu led a nomadic subsistence life. The movement of people away from this life to a sedentary one at Warburton Mission was a gradual process that began with people's visits to the mission prompted initially by curiosity and then the promise of food, blankets, medicines and other material items. Later, a prolonged drought drew people into the mission.
In the early days of the mission, rations were given to yarnangu in exchange for dingo scalps that the missionaries traded for money on their regular trips into the goldfields town of Laverton. This money was then used to buy rations that were trucked back to the mission. This trade was lucrative enough to allow the missionaries to establish a school, a dormitory system, a church, a hospital and several cottage industries. Their main objectives included converting yarnangu to Christianity and providing them with education, employment and training programs.
The ability of the mission to supply yarnangu with food, blankets, tools and other material items meant that yarnangu did not need to travel to the goldfields region for trading purposes. As a result the mission stemmed the outward migration that was occurring in this part of the Desert both prior and in the first few decades of the twentieth century.
In the early days the government did not support the objectives of the mission, in particular education, which they felt was wasted on a "dying race". In addition many government officials believed that it was wrong to attempt, as the mission unsuccessfully had, to bring to an end the ceremonial life of yarnangu . By the 1950's wider national awareness and sympathy for the Aboriginal cause began to grow and as a result of public pressure the government began providing funding in the form of rations. A short time later they began supporting the education initiatives of the mission.
Although an assimilation policy was being rigorously pursued in most part of Australia at this time, the remoteness of this region and lack of funding (which translated as lack of personnel) meant a minimal of interference and change occurred. However, the movement of people onto missions and government settlements (Docker River, Areyonga, Haasts Bluff, Papunya) was certainly in line with government assimilationist policies of the 50s and 60s.
From the 1970s onwards there were changes in government policy away from assimilation and towards self-determination and self-management. In 1973 the UAM relinquished control of the Warburton Mission to the incorporated Warburton Aboriginal Community with an elected Aboriginal council. In 1981 the Ngaanyatjarra Council was officially incorporated. Warburton, Irrunytju, Warakurna, Jameson and Blackstone were the first members of the Council.