Lajamanu, Northern Territory
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Aerial view of Lajamanu and its airstrip
Lajamanu is a small town of the Northern Territory in Australia. It is located around 557 kilometres from Katherine and approximately 890 kilometres from Darwin. At the 2006 census, Lajamanu had a population of 669, of which 92 percent are of Aboriginal origin.
The town is a strongly traditional community, and is governed by the Central Land Council as well as the Kuridji law and justice group. The Lajamanu Council was formed in 1980, and was the first community government council to be formed in the Northern Territory. On cultural matters, the council defers to the local tribal council, because traditional customs are still practised and generally dominate the thinking of the community.
The majority of Lajamanu residents have Warlpiri as their main heritage language. Lajamanu School was a Warlpiri-English bilingual school from 1982 until 2008 when the Northern Government introduced a policy banning Warlpiri language instruction for the first four hours of every school day. This has contributed to a significant drop in attendance at Lajamanu School since 2009. It has been reported that young people now speak Light Warlpiri as a first language. Most official business and education is delivered in English.
Geography and climate
Lajamanu is located close to the centre of Australia, which has a hot, dry climate.
In February 2010, hundreds of live spangled perch rained down upon the town on two successive days. A tornado is believed to have sucked up the fish, which were then frozen at high altitudes and thawed as they fell, which might have been hundreds of kilometres from their origin.
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 kilometres) onto the Buntine Highway for a further 323 kilometres and then 104 to Lajamanu (a dirt but well formed road).
Warlpiri people have a long history of creating art on wooden artifacts, 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.
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.
Lajamanu artists have been finalists in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.
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.
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. In 2008, Patrick co-authored a research paper, Ngurra-kurlu: a way of working with Warlpiri people. Wanta worked as an Australian Research Council funded research fellow at the Australian National University from 2012 to 2014.
In 2013, Wanta Jampijinpa wrote and directed the television documentary Milpirri: Winds of Change. The film was a co production between Pintubi Anmatjerra Warlpiri Media and Communications and People Pictures Pty. Ltd. Milpirri: Winds of Change chronicles Wanta and the Lajamanu elders vision for making Warlpiri culture relevant to the contemporary world. The film premiered on "NITV" (National Indigenous TV) in November 2013.
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