Kukatja (Western Australia)

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The Kukatja people, also written Gugadja, are an Aboriginal Australian people of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.


The Kukatja's traditional lands were, according to Norman Tindale,[a] roughly 11,900 square miles (31,000 km2), centering around Lake Gregory, and running east as far as Balgo. The northern frontier lay about Billiluna, and the waters at Ngaimangaima, a boundary marker between their northern neighbours the Dyaru, and the Ngardi to their east. They were present westerwards on the Canning Stock Route, from Koninara (Godfrey Tank) to Marawuru (Well 40). On their western borders were the Nangatara nation, with whom they had a hostile relationship.[2]

Joint land claim[edit]

On 21 August 1980 a land claim was submitted by 90 claimants on behalf of the Warlpiri, Kukatja and Ngarti peoples, as traditional owners, under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, for an area of about 2,340 square kilometres (900 sq mi). It was the 11th traditional land claim presented on behalf of Aboriginal traditional owners by the Central Land Council. The land borders on areas in which each of the languages – Ngarti, Warlpiri, and Kukatja – is dominant. People from the different language groups have been influenced by each other when residing at Balgo, Western Australia and Lajamanu, Northern Territory. The claim was presented at Balgo Mission. The recommendation handed down by Justice Sir William Kearney on 23 August 1985[3] and presented on 19 August 1986 was that "the whole of the claim area be granted to a Land Trust for the benefit of Aboriginals entitled by tradition to its use or occupation, whether or not the traditional entitlement is qualified as to place, time, circumstance, purpose or permission".[4]


The Kukatja people speak the Kukatja dialect of the Western Desert language.

Ethnographic studies[edit]

Sylvie Poirier has written a monograph dedicated to the analysis of dreams (kapukurri) in Gugadja culture.[5] Many Kukatja now live in the Mulan community.[citation needed]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Bedengo. ("rock hole people", suggesting shiftlessness)
  • Bidong, Bidungo
  • Bunara, Boonara
  • Gogada
  • Gogadja, Gugudja
  • Gogoda, Gugadja
  • Ilbaridja
  • Julbaritja (fromjulbari (south))
  • Julbre
  • Kokatja
  • Kukuruba(of Ngalia people)
  • Manggai (southern toponym, a watering place)
  • Nambulatji
  • Panara (grass seed harvesters)
  • Pardoo (of western Kukatja groups)
  • Peedona, Peedong, Pidung, Pidunga
  • Wanaeka
  • Wangatjunga, Wangatunga, Wangkatunga, Wangkadjungga, Wankutjunga
  • Wangkatjunga.(southern Kukatja groups)
  • Wangu

Source: Tindale 1974, pp. 245–246

See also[edit]

  • Ngururrpa, a grouping of peoples of language groups including Kukatja


  1. ^ Tindale's estimates particularly for the peoples of the Western desert are not considered to be accurate.[1]


  1. ^ Tonkinson 1989, p. 101.
  2. ^ Tindale 1974, p. 245.
  3. ^ "Warlpiri, Kukatja and Ngarti Land Claim". Central Land Council, Australia. March 1987. Retrieved 15 October 2020. [From] Land Rights News Vol 2, No 2, March 1987
  4. ^ Australia. Office of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner; Kearney, William J.; Australia. Department of Aboriginal Affairs; Northern Territory. Administrator (1985), Warlpiri Kukatja and Ngarti land claim, Parliamentary Paper No. 191/1986, Australian Government Publishing Service, ISBN 978-0-644-04273-4
  5. ^ Poirier 2005.