Warburton, Western Australia

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Western Australia
Warburton is located in Western Australia
Coordinates26°08′00″S 126°35′00″E / 26.13333°S 126.58333°E / -26.13333; 126.58333Coordinates: 26°08′00″S 126°35′00″E / 26.13333°S 126.58333°E / -26.13333; 126.58333
Population576 (2016 census)[1]
Elevation459 m (1,506 ft)
LGA(s)Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku
State electorate(s)Kalgoorlie
Federal Division(s)O'Connor
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
29.9 °C
86 °F
14.8 °C
59 °F
247.6 mm
9.7 in

Warburton or Warburton Ranges is an Indigenous Australian community in Western Australia, just to the south of the Gibson Desert and located on the Great Central Road (part of the Outback Way) and Gunbarrel Highway. At the 2016 census, Warburton had a population of 576.[1]


Australian Broadcasting Corporation research indicated that:

The Aboriginal people of the western desert were nomadic people, moving around in search of food and water. This changed with the arrival of missionaries and the beginning of 'settlement' at Warburton in 1933.

By 1954, between 500 and 700 Aboriginal people were living at Warburton. Children stayed in the children's home and were sent to school where they were taught in English, a policy that contributed to the breakdown of traditional culture. Women and girls were trained in sewing, kitchen skills and cooking, and men made money by collecting dingo scalps or working as shearers or builders for the mission. A nearby copper mine drew even more people to the settlement and by the 1970s the last of the nomadic people had come in from the bush.[2]

The settlement has been an Aboriginal mission since 1934, when Will Wade, his wife and his children established the mission under the auspices of the UAM (United Aborigines Mission). It is named after explorer Peter Warburton, the first European to cross the Great Sandy Desert.

The ABC later adds:

In 1973, the United Aborigines Mission handed control of the Warburton settlement to the Aboriginal people, and responsibility for economic development was undertaken by the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority of the state government of Western Australia. Since then, Warburton has worked under the umbrella of the Ngaanyatjarra Council.[2]

The town was hit by a flash flood in February 2011. Water levels in some parts of town reached as high as 2 metres (7 ft) resulting in 60 homes being evacuated. Water flowed through 15 homes to a height of 30 centimetres (12 in) and two people had to be rescued from a stranded four-wheel drive vehicle that had water reach window level.[3]


Warburton is the centre of a very large and extremely isolated Aboriginal reserve, Ngaanyatjarra, which stretches east to the Northern Territory border. Beyond there the first major settlement is Yulara, near Uluru. The closest town is Laverton 560 km south west along the Great Central Road.

Warburton is situated on the Elder Creek.[4]

The area around Warburton continues to be of interest for mining exploration, predominantly for copper and nickel, but also uranium and gold.

Town planning[edit]

Warburton Layout Plan No.1 was prepared in accordance with State Planning Policy 3.2 Aboriginal Communities, and was endorsed by the community on 9 December 2003 and the WAPC on 29 June 2004.[5]


Climate records have been collected at Warburton Airfield since 1940.[6] January is the hottest month of the year, with a mean maximum temperature of 37.9 °C (100.2 °F) and a mean minimum of 23.1 °C (73.6 °F). July is the coldest month with a mean maximum temperature of 20.8 °C (69.4 °F) and mean minimum temperature of 5.7 °C (42.3 °F).

Average rainfall is 247.6 millimetres (9.75 in), with February tending to be the wettest month and September the driest month. Warburton is therefore more affected by the tropical rain systems from the north of Australia rather than the rain-bearing cold fronts arriving from Antarctica towards the south of Australia.

Climate data for Warburton Airfield (1940–2018)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 47.7
Average high °C (°F) 37.9
Average low °C (°F) 23.1
Record low °C (°F) 13.9
Average rainfall mm (inches) 30.7
Average rainy days (≥ 0.2mm) 4.3 4.3 4.0 3.1 3.5 3.6 3.1 1.9 1.6 2.9 4.1 5.1 41.5
Source: Bureau of Meteorology[6]


The demographics of the population are likely matched by the overall data indicated for the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku 2016 Census.

The 2016 Census indicated a population of 576 residents, 84.9% of whom were Indigenous Australians.[1]


Warburton is in the Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku.[7] Information on travel and tourism in the area can be found on their website. The town has an air strip, one community store, health clinic, school, youth drop-in centre, open air swimming pool, sports field, gallery and coffee shop (open Sunday mornings), and roadhouse.[8] The town is serviced by Australia Post and the Flying Doctor Service.

A two-chair haemodialysis unit opened in the community in 2013. Patients can return to Warburton permanently or for extended visits and be treated. The service is run by Western Desert Dialysis[9] in partnership with Ngaanyatjarra Health Service.

Wilurarra Creative Centre is a community facility which is activated by a year-round program, for people aged between 17 and 30 years. Within Wilurarra Creative's Centre people work on a range of different practices including music, fashion performance, land & cultural practice, digital media, print media and art. Wilurarra Creative engages with the demand from Warburton's young people for the activities that link the reality of contemporary cultural context within which Ngaanyatjarra life operates.[10]

The centre was built in 1994, the first dedicated music recording studio in the Ngaanyatjarra region, and its programs have been across various art and cultural forms, subject matter and involving a range of community people. In 2007, a video produced by Warburton Youth Artists Nerida Lane & Prudence Andy won the prestigious Heywire Award.[11] The Wilurarra Creative program is based on empowerment, equality and collaboration. Wilurarra also utilises the democratising power of YouTube[12] The Studio and its programs are currently funded by the Federal Attorney General's Department and occur in the town of Warburton on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands.[10]

The local art gallery exhibits Aboriginal arts and crafts from Warakurna Artists, Papalunkutja Artists, Kayili Artists, Tjanpi Weavers and Wilurarra Creative. The Warburton Arts Project was commenced in 1990 to preserve local tradition and culture.[13]

Ngaanyatjarra Community College was opened in August 1996 to provide a range of adult education options for the community. The only current service offered at the college is a telecentre.[14]

Warburton is a "dry" community where the use and import of alcohol is prohibited under local by-laws.

Tourists and visitors need a permit from the Ngaanyatjarra Council to enter the town and use any of the highways in the area.

Local culture[edit]

The Indigenous people of Warburton belong to the Western Desert Cultural Bloc.[15] It is also in the area of the Papunya Tula art movement: "The emergence of 'dot' paintings by Indigenous men from the western deserts of Central Australia in the early 1970s has been called the greatest art movement of the twentieth century."[16] The main language spoken is Ngaanyatjarra. According to the 2006 census, English was the only language spoken at home by 9.2% of Indigenous persons usually resident in Warburton while Ngaanyatjarra (78.5%) and Wangkatha (2.3%) were the only two other Indigenous languages spoken. Wangkatha is a group identity and dialect mainly associated with Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Laverton and the area in between. It originated through forced relocation and diverse group mixing at Mt Margaret mission.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Warburton (L) (Urban Centre/Locality)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 24 July 2019. Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b Liz Thompson (2003). "Ngaanyatjarra Dreaming: The Warburton Arts Project". ABC. Archived from the original on 5 May 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  3. ^ "FESA - Warburton recovering from flash flood". 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  4. ^ Bonzle.com Australian Atlas Information Page;
  5. ^ Warburton Layout Plan map-set and background report
  6. ^ a b "Warburton Airfield". Climate statistics for Australian locations. Bureau of Meteorology. September 2018. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  7. ^ Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku [1]/
  8. ^ "Warburton Roadhouse". Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  9. ^ http://www.westerndesertdialysis.com
  10. ^ a b Wilurarra Creative [2]/
  11. ^ 'Honey ants' video
  12. ^ The Democratising power of Youtube
  13. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Gateway to Arts and Culture
  14. ^ "Ngaanyatjarra Community College Warburton". tjulyuru.com Tjulyuru Cultural and Civic Centre. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  15. ^ http://www.berndt.uwa.edu.au/
  16. ^ http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/papunya-tula-art

External links[edit]