Warburton (Milyirrtjarra)

Warburton Ranges Mirlirrtjarra Community is in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands, Gibson Desert, Western Australia. It is located 1,050kms south west of Alice Springs and 920kms 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.

Community Location

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

Longitude 128 degrees, 34 min, 51 sec east.

Warburton is 1500 feet above sea level.

The community operates on Western Standard time.


  • A Large Community Store. The store has a full range of dry goods, frozen foods and fruit and vegetables re-supplied fortnightly by the Ngaanyatjarra Agency & Transport Service, Perth.
  • The Community Clinic. Staffed by Ngaanyatjarra Health Service, the clinic trains and employs one Aboriginal Health Worker and one Environmental Health Worker.
  • The Community School. Provides primary and secondary schooling for community students. Has eight teachers and two (FTE’s) Aboriginal Island Education Officers.
  • Church. The community has a non-denominational church.
  • Warburton Workshop/Garage. Provides a vehicle maintenance and repair service for Warburton and other Communities.
  • Warburton Public Swimming Pool. Large pool facility for all residents.
  • Warburton Football Oval. Important youth sports facility. Grassed. Lit.
  • Warburton Arts Facility. The Arts Centre provides supervised art and crafts training and production for fifty or more local producers.
  • Warburton Roadhouse. Has 2 Self contained units, 12 Double ensuites, 11 Single budget, 20 Single ensuites, 2 toilet facilities and one laundry.


Ngaanyatjarraku Shire Office

The Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku administration office is located in Warburton.

Community Services

Law and Order

The Warburton Police Post was serviced by Laverton Police Patrols until March 2005. A Police Station was established within the community and was officially opened by Hon Michelle Roberts, Minister for Emergency Services in December 2005. The Warburton Police Station has four fulltime Police Officers who reside in Warburton.

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.

Essential Services

An Essential Services Officer manages the community's power, water and sewerage supply and services.

A large diesel power house provides 24 hour electricity.

Contact Details

Community Address

Warburton Community

PMB 71

via Alice Springs NT 0872.

Telephone Numbers


8956 7642 Fax  8956 7647
Clinic 8956 7685 Fax  8956 7750
Store 8956 7637 Fax  8956 7210
Roadhouse 8956 7656 Fax  8956 7645
Police Post  8955 8300  Fax  8956 7639
Workshop 8956 7684  Fax  8956 7732
School 8956 7651 Fax  8956 7654    
Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku 8956 7966  Fax  8956 7959


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.