Pukatja, South Australia

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Pukatja (Ernabella)
South Australia
Pukatja (Ernabella) is located in South Australia
Pukatja (Ernabella)
Pukatja (Ernabella)
Coordinates 26°16′47″S 132°8′3″E / 26.27972°S 132.13417°E / -26.27972; 132.13417Coordinates: 26°16′47″S 132°8′3″E / 26.27972°S 132.13417°E / -26.27972; 132.13417
Population 503 (2011 census)[1]
Established c. 1938
Postcode(s) 0872
Elevation 676 m (2,218 ft)
LGA(s) Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
State electorate(s) Giles
Federal Division(s) Grey
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
26.8 °C
80 °F
11.8 °C
53 °F
274.3 mm
10.8 in

Pukatja (formerly Ernabella) (26°17′33″S 132°07′42″E / 26.2925°S 132.1283°E / -26.2925; 132.1283) is an Aboriginal community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in South Australia, comprising one of the six main communities on "The Lands" (the others being Amata, Pipalyatjara, Fregon/Kaltjiti, Indulkana and Mimili).


Pukatja is in the eastern Musgrave Ranges, west of the Stuart Highway, about 30 km south of the Northern Territory border. The community sits at an elevation of 676 metres.

Pukatja is about 1400 km by road from Adelaide, including 200 km on unsealed roads.


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recorded a population of 503 in the 2011 census,[1] up from 332 in the 2006 census, 226 in the 2001 census, and 470 in the 1991 census.

PY Media reports that the population of Pukatja / Ernabella is somewhere between 500 and 700 people.

In the 2001 census, Pukatja was second only to sister community Mimili in having the lowest per capita income in South Australia ($174). Like a number of APY Lands communities, Pukatja boasts one of the highest proportions of Australian-born residents (97.5%).[2]


Ernabella has been an Aboriginal community for a long time. It was established as a Presbyterian mission in 1938. The principles for the establishment of the mission at that time were:

Dr. Charles Duguid, the advocate for the establishment of Ernabella laid down the following principles:

There was to be no compulsion nor imposition of our way of life on the Aborigines, nor deliberate interference with tribal custom ... only people trained in some particular skill should be on the mission staff, and ... they must learn the tribal language.[3]

Anangu people started gradually to come in from traditional life in the desert to live at the Mission after its establishment. The mission respected Anangu culture and traditions and offered medical help and education, with no conditions attached.

Responsibility for the administration of Ernabella Mission was formally handed over to the Ernabella Community Council — later Pukatja Community Council — on 1 January 1974.[4]

The historic former Ernabella Mission Hospital, Church and Manse are listed on the South Australian Heritage Register.[5]


Climate records for Ernabella/Pukatja have been kept since 1971. Due to its elevation high in the Musgrave Ranges, Pukatja is one of the coldest locations in central Australia. Minimum temperatures may drop below −5 °C (23 °F) with heavy frost and daytime maximum temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) may occur each winter.[6] Summers are still hot, however Pukatja does not experience the scorching 45 °C (113 °F) plus summer maximum temperatures typical of most of inland South Australia. Average January maximums are 34.5 °C (94.1 °F) and this drops to 17.8 °C (64.0 °F) in June. Overnight lows range from a mean minimum temperature of 19.7 °C (67.5 °F) in January to 3.3 °C (37.9 °F) in June. Annual rainfall averages 275.2 millimetres (10.83 in), which is typical of an arid climate, and mostly falls from brief summer thunderstorms.[6]

Climate data for Ernabella/Pukatja, SA
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 43.0
Average high °C (°F) 34.5
Average low °C (°F) 19.7
Record low °C (°F) 7.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 43.7
Average precipitation days 3.5 3.3 3.0 2.5 3.3 3.4 2.3 2.8 2.2 3.5 4.4 3.9 38.1
Source: The Bureau of Meteorology [6]


Mail is delivered twice a week by air mail bag.

Ernabella Arts Inc is the longest continually running aboriginal arts centre in Australia. It has a school teaching Reception through to senior high school. Technical and further education (TAFE) facilities for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands are based at Pukatja.

The community store sells grocery supplies, clothes and hot food, and has EFTPOS facilities. The garage has basic parts and diesel fuel. The clinic has three registered nurses and the doctor is based here, but often absent visiting other communities.

The medical clinic is staffed by a doctor and 3 nurses, as well as Anangu Health Workers.

A basic police station exists at Pukatja, and is not permanently manned. In July 2007, the Police Association of South Australia described the stations as "dirty" and "ill-equipped", and a "disgrace". The Pukatja station is due for replacement, though its preferential status is in doubt with apparent priority for a station upgrade at Amata.[7] In response to that criticism, a month later the SA State Government announced that it would spend A$7.5 million at Amata and Pukatja for new police stations, court facilities and cells along with associated police housing and facilities.[8]

Even in this remote area, houses have telephones, access to multiple television channels including (Imparja and ABC), and mail is delivered twice weekly by air from Alice Springs. As with most APY settlements, Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Special Broadcasting Service television are available.

The Uniting Church in Australia has a congregation in Pukatja.[9]

A permit is required for a member of the public to visit any community on the APY Lands, as they are freehold lands owned by the Aboriginal people.

Ernabella Arts[edit]

Ernabella Arts, established in 1948, is one of Australia's longest continuously running Aboriginal arts organisations. The purpose of the organisation is to provide a place "where senior women and men and young women and men practice and develop our art, in order to sustain, support and promote our cultural heritage, and to improve the lifestyle of our community’s members."[10] During the 1950s and 1960s, art and craft using locally produced wool was the predominant artistic form produced by the Ernabella artists. Batik was successfully introduced after several Ernabella artists travelled to Indonesia in the 1970s. The Ernabella artists are now renowned for their batik work and printmaking. A substantial collection of Ernabella art can be seen at the National Museum of Australia, including a range of fine ceramics also produced by the Ernabella artists.[11] Ernabella Arts celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008.


The Adelaide Advertiser reported on Monday 1 October 2007 that the black-flanked rock wallaby, known as 'warru' to the local population, faced extinction and 15 of the wallabies had been transferred from an undisclosed location on the APY Lands and also from Pukatja to Monarto Zoo. The article claimed there were only approximately 50 of the animals left in the wild. Work in monitoring the species' survival was said to involve Aboriginal trackers and schoolchildren from Pukatja to help track the wallabies' movements.[12]


  1. ^ a b 2011 Census QuickStats
  2. ^ 2001 Census Data on South Australia - Cat. no. 4705.0 Population Distribution, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians - companion data - * NOTE: Excel spreadsheet link *[1]
  3. ^ [Australian National University] "A Moravian Mission in Australia: Ebenezer through Ernabella eyes", Bill Edwards; [2]
  4. ^ "Indigenous Politics: A letter to all Australians", New Matilda Magazine (replicated on ANTaR), 8 September 2006 [3]
  5. ^ "Former Hospital, Church and Manse of former Ernabella Mission". South Australian Heritage Register. Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 16 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b c "Climate Statistics for Ernabella/Pukatja, South Australia". Retrieved 11 February 2012. 
  7. ^ "Police Stations like ill-equipped sheds", Adelaide Advertiser, 7 July 2007 [4]
  8. ^ "$34 million package for the APY Lands" 'Minister Weatherill Media Release, 3 August 2007''Retrieved on 8 August 2007'
  9. ^ UCA List of Congregations
  10. ^ http://www.ernabellaarts.com.au/
  11. ^ Ernabella Arts collection, National Museum of Australia
  12. ^ Adelaide Advertiser, Monday, 1 October 2007, page 16

External links[edit]