Lajamanu, Northern Territory

Coordinates: 18°20′09″S 130°38′18″E / 18.335835°S 130.63834°E / -18.335835; 130.63834
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Northern Territory
Aerial view of Lajamanu and its airstrip
Lajamanu is located in Northern Territory
Coordinates18°20′09″S 130°38′18″E / 18.335835°S 130.63834°E / -18.335835; 130.63834[1]
Population606 (2016 census)[2]
Elevation316 m (1,037 ft)(airport)[3]
Time zoneACST (UTC+9:30)
Territory electorate(s)Gwoja[4]
Federal division(s)Lingiari[5]
Mean max temp[3] Mean min temp[3] Annual rainfall[3]
33.8 °C
93 °F
18.1 °C
65 °F
501.3 mm
19.7 in
Localities around Lajamanu:
Gurindji Gurindji Gurindji
Gurindji Lajamanu Gurindji
Gurindji Gurindji Gurindji
FootnotesAdjoining localities[6]

Lajamanu, formerly known as Hooker Creek Native Settlement or just Hooker Creek, is a small town of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located around 560 km (350 mi) from Katherine and approximately 890 km (550 mi) from Darwin. At the 2016 Australian census, Lajamanu had a population of 606, of whom 89.3 percent are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, chiefly Warlpiri people.


Lajamanu was established in 1949, on the site of the former Hooker Creek station. The government moved Walpiri people from Yuendumu, only succeeding on the fourth attempt, after people had simply walked back their own communities on the first three attempts.[7] In the 1950s it was known as the Hooker Creek Native Settlement.[8]

There was a village council in the 1960s (possibly earlier). In 1970, a council of twelve men was elected, including Maurice Jupurrurla Luther MBE, who had been taken to Hooker Creek from Yuendumu in 1958. In 1976 he was appointed to a committee of four people to inquire into the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. After the Gurindji strike and handover of Wattie Creek to the Gurindji people by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, Luther was an important figure in negotiations to allow the Warlpiri people to continue living at Lajamanu, the Gurindji being the traditional owners of the area. He also played a large part in the decision to rename the place Lajamanu, which is derived from a nearby Gurindji place name.[8]

In November 2021 the community was put into lockdown by the Northern Territory Government, as a wave of infections hit the Katherine region during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia. The first COVID-19 case in Lajamanu was recorded on 1 December, a day after the lockdown orders were changed to that of a lockout.[9]

Location and access[edit]

Lajamanu is located around 560 km (350 mi) south-west of Katherine[9] and approximately 890 km (550 mi) from Darwin. The nearest community is Daguragu, about 110 km (68 mi) away.[7] Lajamanu is difficult to access, mainly due to the distance from major cities and towns. Road access is via the Victoria Highway, turning off after 120 km (75 mi)) onto the Buntine Highway for a further 323 km (201 mi), and then 104 to Lajamanu (a dirt but well-formed road).

Hooker Creek Airport has a sealed airstrip,[10] and is serviced by chartered flights, the RAAF and the Flying Doctor service.[11]


The town is a strongly traditional community, and is governed by the Central Land Council (Region 3, Northwest)[12] as well as the Lajamanu Kurdiji group,a group of senior men and women of the community who promote respect for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal law and justice within their community. Kurdiji is a Warlpiri word for "shield", with the connotations of protecting or warding off.[13]

The Lajamanu Council was the first community government council established in the Northern Territory, in 1980. It is a strongly traditional Warlpiri community, and the council follows the lead of the local people's council. It is a dry (alcohol-free) community.[7]


At the 2016 Australian census, there were 606 people in Lajamanu, of whom 89.3 percent are Indigenous, mainly Warlpiri.[2] This represents a drop in the population since 2006, when there were 669 people.[14]


The majority of Lajamanu residents have Warlpiri as their main heritage language. Lajamanu School was a Warlpiri-English bilingual school from 1982 until 2008[15] when the Northern Territory Government introduced a policy banning Warlpiri language instruction for the first four hours of every school day.[16] This contributed to a significant drop in attendance at Lajamanu School after 2009.[17][18] It has been reported that young people now speak "Light Warlpiri" as a first language.[19] Most official business and education is delivered in English.

Geography and climate[edit]

Lajamanu is located close to the centre of Australia, which has a hot, dry climate.

In February 2010 and February 2023, media outlets reported that hundreds of live spangled perch (Leiopotherapon unicolor) rained down upon the town.[20][21] However, this species has exceptionally good dispersal abilities and can migrate via overland flow, leading to its being commonly found scattered on the ground following heavy rain and mistaken reports of having fallen from the sky.[22]

Climate data for Lajamanu Airport, elevation 316 m (1,037 ft), (1998–2020 normals, extremes 1967–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 46.2
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 37.4
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 24.2
Record low °C (°F) 17.2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 178.9
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 9.4 9.3 5.5 1.4 1.1 0.6 0.3 0.3 0.6 2.6 4.1 7.9 43.1
Source: Australian Bureau of Meteorology[23]


Warlpiri people have a long history of creating art on wooden artefacts, the body, the ground and rocks. Walpiri art was used for ceremonial and teaching purposes, a feature of art in Lajamanu. Lajamanu artists began using canvas and acrylic paint in 1986 following a traditional paintings course held in the community.[24]

Today, the artists in Lajamanu continue to paint using canvas and acrylic paint at the community's Warnayaka Art Gallery. The Gallery is a Warlpiri corporation and is governed by an entirely Walpiri board. Artists Peggy Rockman Napaljarri, Lily Nungarrayi Yirringali Jurrah Hargraves, Rosie Murnku Marnku Napurrurla Tasman and Molly Napurrurla Tasman have all painted at the gallery.

Other contemporary Indigenous Australian artists from the Lajamanu region include Sheila Brown Napaljarri and Peggy Rockman Napaljarri.[25][26]

Lajamanu artists have been finalists in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.[27]

Notable people[edit]

  • Maurice Jupurrurla Luther MBE (c.1945–1985), see above
  • In 2010, Warlpiri elders in Lajamanu including Bill Bunter, Sharon Anderson and Martin Johnson participated in an ABC TV documentary Bush Law, about the relationship between traditional Warlpiri law and the mainstream Australian justice system.[28]
  • Steve Jampijinpa Patrick (also known as Wanta Jampijinpa Pawu-Kurlpurlurnu) is an educator and has also been involved in the Milpirri festival and collaborations with Tracks Dance company.[29] In 2008, Patrick co-authored a research paper, "Ngurra-kurlu: a way of working with Warlpiri people".[30] Wanta worked as an Australian Research Council-funded research fellow at the Australian National University from 2012 to 2014.[31] In 2013, Wanta Jampijinpa wrote and directed the television documentary Milpirri: Winds of Change. The film chronicles Wanta and the Lajamanu elders' vision for making Warlpiri culture relevant to the contemporary world. The film premiered on NITV in November 2013, and has been available on SBS On Demand.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search result for "Lajamanu"". NT Place Names Register. North Territory Government. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Lajamanu (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 21 March 2020. Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ a b c d "Summary statistics LAJAMANU AIRPORT (nearest weather station)". Commonwealth of Australia, Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Division of Gwoja". Northern Territory Electoral Commission. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  5. ^ "Federal electoral division of Lingiari". Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 25 January 2020.
  6. ^ "Localities within Victoria River sub-region (CP-5459)" (PDF). NT Place Names Register. Northern Territory Government. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Remote Area Health Corps (2009). Katherine West Region: Lajamanu (PDF). Community Profile (1st ed.). Australian Government. p. 5. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  8. ^ a b Nash, David (18 January 2021). "Luther, Maurice Jupurrurla (c. 1945–1985)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  9. ^ a b Perera, Alicia (2 December 2021). "First COVID-19 case recorded in remote NT community of Lajamanu, bringing Katherine cluster to 60". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  10. ^ YHOO – Hooker Creek (PDF). AIP En Route Supplement from Airservices Australia, effective 21 March 2024, Aeronautical Chart (archived link)
  11. ^ "Airport Activity ✈ Hooker Creek Airport (Hooker Creek, Northern Territory)". FlightAware. Retrieved 5 December 2021.
  12. ^ "Region Three". Central Land Council. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  13. ^ "Lajamanu Kurdiji group". Central Land Council. Archived from the original on 30 April 2021.
  14. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (25 October 2007). "Lajamanu (L) (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2006 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  15. ^ "Four Corners - 14/09/2009: Chronology: The Bilingual Education Policy in the Northern Territory". Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  16. ^ [1] Archived March 31, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Dickson, G. (2010) No Warlpiri, No School? A preliminary look at attendance in Warlpiri schools since introducing the first four hours policy. Ngoonjook: a journal of Australian Indigenous Issues. 35: 97-113.
  18. ^ "Remote NT education crisis: lost in the Warlpiri triangle". Crikey. 18 January 2011. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  19. ^ Nicholas Bakalar, "Linguist Finds a Language in Its Infancy", The New York Times, July 14, 2013
  20. ^ Bourchier, Daniel (28 February 2010). "Fish rain down on Top End town of Lajamanu". The Australian. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  21. ^ Allison, Charmayne; Trevaskis, Liz; Barwick, Alex (21 February 2023). "Fish 'rained from the sky', outback community says, in freak weather event". ABC News. Retrieved 25 February 2023.
  22. ^ "Leiopotherapon unicolor (Gunther 1859) spangled perch". Desert Fishes. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  23. ^ "Climate statistics for Australian locations- LAJAMANU AIRPORT". 7 April 2024.
  24. ^ "Tradition and Transformation - Lajamanu". National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  25. ^ Johnson, Vivien (1994). Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert: A Biographical Dictionary. Roseville East, NSW: Craftsman House. p. 174.
  26. ^ Birnberg, Margo; Janusz Kreczmanski (2004). Aboriginal Artist Dictionary of Biographies: Australian Western, Central Desert and Kimberley Region. Marleston, South Australia: J.B. Publishing. p. 212. ISBN 1-876622-47-4.
  27. ^ NT Government Department of Arts and Museums. "Previous Telstra NATSIAA". Archived from the original on 3 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Bush Law". ABC. Message Sticks program. 28 March 2010. Archived from the original (Transcript) on 11 June 2010.
  29. ^ [2] Archived September 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Ngurra-kurlu: a way of working with Warlpiri people" (PDF). 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  31. ^ "Mr Wanta Patrick". School of Music - ANU. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  32. ^ "Milpirri - Winds Of Change". SBS On Demand. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2021.

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