Western Australian Aboriginal community

 
 
Have you ever heard of the Martu people?
Martu means 'one of us', or 'person'. The language is also called Martu Wangka, a Western Desert Language.
 
The Martu of Western Australia are visionary and resourceful. Their hope for the future is to continue to thrive and grow.
 

 

Martu are an Australian Aboriginal people of the Western Desert. Their lands include the Percival Lakes and Pilbara regions in Western Australia. They traditionally occupied a large tract of land; their neighbours to the east are the Pintupi.
Punmu is situated in the very heart of Western Australia, 1310km northeast of Perth, in the Rudall River National Park. It is one of the most remote communities in Australia.
 
Two of the main reasons the Martu people live out in the middle of the desert are to return to their traditional land, and to keep the community as a whole, away from influences such as alcohol, petrol sniffing and drugs. Any person caught bringing any of these substances into the community receives harsh penalties from the elders.
 
 
 
 
 
Martu society is divided into four skin groups, or subsections. There are very strict rules as to who may marry whom:


Male skin name
 
Can only marry
 female skin name
Children will be
PanakaKarimarra
(Garimara)
Milangka
PurunguMilangkaKarimarra
(Garimara)
Karimarra
(Garimara)
PanakaPurungu
MilangkaPurunguPanaka
 

 
In the 1960s, some Martu had not seen white people, but knew of them from their ancestors, some of whom had encountered them at the creation of the Canning Stock Route in 1906-7. The experience had been a brutal one for many of the Martu people, who had been forced to serve as 'guides' and reveal water sources, after having been 'run down' by men on horseback, restrained by heavy chains, and tied to trees at night.
 
 
In 2002, Martu were granted native title to much of their country, after almost two decades of struggle. It was geographically the largest claim in Australia to that time. However, Karlamilyi (Karlamilyi National Park) was not included. Teddy Biljabu said at the time that they had been given 'a body without its heart'.