The Culture and Heritage of the Pitjantjatjara in Central Australia

Calling the Central Australian desert home, the Pitjantjatjara are one of the country’s aboriginal tribes. Linked closely with the Yankunytjatjara and the Ngaanyatjarra people, they have their own language and own diverse set of customs that have been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

Though known nationally and internationally as the Pitjantjatjara people, they refer to themselves as Anangu, which is translated as people. Since time can remember, they have lived off the fat of the land, hunting local animals for food and gathering the few plants that grow in the outback for sustenance. These days, they have all but given up their hunting antics, as well as their traditional nomadic tendencies in favour of a more settled lifestyle in line with modern-day living, but they have managed to preserve their unique language and large portions of their cultural heritage. This is no mean feat when the contemporary influences of Australia are an ever-present reminder of the need to evolve and stay ahead of the game.

At one point in time, the Pitjantjatjara people dominated most of the Central Australian outback, grouping around major landmarks, and today there are around 4,000 that remain in these areas. They section themselves off into small communities that are peppered across the landscape, and they have a strict and successful land arrangement with the Aboriginal Traditional Owners, which allows them to keep living, undisrupted, in the land that they’ve claimed as their own for thousands of years.

The Pitjantjatjara people collect mostly in the north-western parts of South Australia, but communities are dotted across the border and into the Northern Territory, too. Some can even be found settled amongst the desert scenery in Western Australia. For the Pitjantjatjara people, the land is such an important part of life and history, and the barren, sun-parched setting forms a huge part of their identity. Every area is a haven of stories and meaning for the Anangu.

Uluru and Kaja Tjuta amongst other major Australian landmarks, are important in the lifestyle of the Pitjantjatjara people, as they are believed to possess spiritual and ceremonial significance, though they have faced some disagreements with the land authorities over this in the past. Today, there are over forty sacred sites in the Central Australian desert that the Anangu claim have spiritual importance, including a number of Tjurkurpa tracks which lead from the centre of the country all the way to the sea.

To visit one of the most popular Landmarks in the world, book our Uluru Tour today and experience the history.