Towns in Australia

Exploring Australia, town by town

Papunya NT


Postcode: 0872

Papunya is a small Indigenous Australian community of about 350 people roughly 240 km northwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Australia. It is now home to a number of displaced Aboriginal people mainly from the Pintubi and Luritja tribes.

Papunya is on restricted Aboriginal land and requires a permit to enter or travel through.

Pintupi and Luritja people were forced off their traditional country in the 1930s and moved into Hermannsburg and Haast’s Bluff where there were government ration depots. There were often tragic confrontations between these people, with their nomadic hunter-gathering lifestyle, and the cattlemen who were moving into the country and over-using the limited water supplies of the region for their cattle.

The Australian government built a water bore and some basic housing at Papunya in the 1950s to provide room for the increasing populations of people in the already-established Aboriginal communities and reserves. The community grew to over a thousand people in the early 1970s and was plagued by poor living conditions, health problems,[such as flu, the disease of the white man which the aboriginals’ bodies found hard to fight off] and tensions between various tribal and linguistic groups. These festering problems led many people, especially the Pintupi, to move further west closer to their traditional country. After settling in a series of outstations, with little or no support from the government, the new community of Kintore was established about 250 km west of Papunya in the early 1980s.

It was during the 1970s that a striking and unique blend of ancient and modern art styles began to emerge in Papunya and by the 1980s had begun to attract national and then international attention, now commanding a proud place on world art markets.