Indigenous Services

Local indigenous organisations in the Alice Springs Community Directory.

The Central Arrernte people are the traditional owners of Alice Springs, a place rich in culture and heritage.

Arrerente Dreaming

The Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people are the traditional owners of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). They have been here since time immemorial. In the beginning, Altyerrenge - ancestral figures - created the landscape and its features, as well as Arrernte Law. Arrernte people continue to live in Mparntwe, observe that law, look after the country and teach children the Arrernte language and the importance of culture.

According to the traditional owners, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros and other ancestral figures, and as such contains many sites of importance to its traditional owners. Some of the first Dreaming stories ever recorded were those of the Arrernte people of Central Australia.

Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) is a very significant place where the caterpillar beings came together. Other important sites include Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill) and Alhekulyele (Mt. Gillen).

Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation The Alice Springs native title holders lodged an application for recognition of their rights with the National Native Title Tribunal in 1994. In May 2002 the Lhere Artepe Aboriginal Corporation was registered as the prescribed body to represent the native title holders in Alice Springs and act on their behalf.

The Lhere Artepe native tittle holders in Alice Springs have already been involved in projects such as Todd River rehabilitation and works at Ilparpa Swamp. The Alice Springs Town Council is also proud to be a supporting partner for the Lhere Artepe Cultural Protocols project.

Through this partnership a series of initiatives have been developed to address long standing concerns regarding the health and well being of itinerants and the problems associated with urban drift in an appropriate and culturally sensitive manner. With goodwill the way is now open for Alice Springs native title holders to fully participate in a range of cultural, social, economic and political issues in Alice Springs that could prove a model for negotiated native title outcomes in Australia.

Aboriginal people and Alice Springs

Alice Springs is the regional hub of Central Australia so it attracts Aboriginal people from all over that region and well beyond, in addition to its traditional owners, the Central Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people.

Aboriginal residents live in the suburbs, on special purpose leases (or town camps), further out at Amoonguna to the South, and on the small family outstation communities on Aboriginal Lands in surrounding areas.

Besides standard english and the distinctive dialect of Aboriginal english, there are many traditional languages still spoken by the residents of Alice Springs who identify as Indigenous Australians. What it means to be Indigenous is expressed in a rich and very diverse cultural mosaic. There are local people still living very close to the ancient ways of the desert, struggling to maintain these ways in the face of the ever increasing pressures of modernisation.

Aboriginal people are probably as different as it is possible to be from the contemporary Australian culture and economy, from living in the desert combined with an incredible level of skill in its use, an encyclopaedic knowledge of the landscape and its ecology, a profound and rich religious life tied to that landscape and the world’s most complex kinship system. It is a monument to the human intellect and spirit and most likely the only culture that would have survived for so long here in one of the world’s harshest and demanding natural environments.

Since settlement

Aboriginal Centralians have had very little time to adapt to the new realities. Exploration of the region did not begin until the 1860’s, and there was not a significant European population here until the mid twentieth century.

Aboriginal families were still coming out of the desert, coming into contact with white Australia for the first time as late as the 1960’s, with the last family emerging from the Gibson Desert in 1984.

The combination of extremes of cultural difference and resulting drastic enforced change over a short period of time has resulted in serious social and economic problems for Indigenous Australians here as much as anywhere else in Australia.
Given the large Aboriginal population of the region and its concentration in Alice Springs some of those problems will be visible in our streets and are often the focus of dealt media attention.

What is not always visible is the work of many government and non-government organisations working in partnership in the Region to help Aboriginal citizens cope with and overcome the difficulties they face. Apart from the agencies of all tiers of government, Federal , Territory and Local, there are over 70 Aboriginal organisations, agencies and incorporated associations in our Region dealing with social, cultural and economic issues. Many of these organisations are pioneers in their field leading the nation and the world in Indigenous community management and development.

Alice Springs is a proudly multicultural community with citizens from every corner of the world. At its core is the Indigenous community. Cultural harmony requires work. Alice Springs has much to teach the world in how that work should be done.

Alice Springs Town Council’s role

Council’s vision is for a vibrant and growing community that embraces its cultural heritage, its unique identity and desert living environment. It is always Council’s aim to support initiatives, festivals and events that promote interaction between cultures and help maintain a cohesive community.

In identifying and implementing integrated projects that embrace and preserve local culture and heritage Council is continuing to work with key local organisations towards a more united and integrated community.

Welcome to our Country

The following words form the traditional welcome in the Central Arrernte language:

Anwerne Mparntwe-arenye tyerrtye mapele arrenhantherre welcome-ileme apmere anwerne-kenhe-werne. Anwerne ahentye-aneme arrantherre akaltye-irremele respectem-iletyeke apmere nhenhe.