Western Desert cultural bloc

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The Western Desert cultural bloc or just Western Desert is a cultural region in central Australia covering about 600,000 square kilometres, including the Gibson Desert, the Great Victoria Desert[dubious ], the Great Sandy and Little Sandy Deserts in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. The Western Desert cultural bloc can be said to stretch from the Nullarbor in the south to the Kimberley in the north, and from the Percival Lakes in the west through to the Pintupi lands in the Northern Territory.

The term is often used by anthropologists and linguists when discussing the 40 or so Aboriginal groups that live there, who speak dialects of one language, often called the Western Desert language.

Apart from the Canning Stock Route and the Rabbit-proof fence, white contact with this part of Australia was very rare, until the 1960s:

No one had been out there. The desert, as far as the Department [WA Dept of Suppy] was concerned... was an unknown, as it was to the whole of Western Australia. The Warburton Ranges [were] as far as anybody got. People in those days knew absolutely nothing about Aborigines.[1]

Dialect groups[edit]


  1. ^ Terry Long, Native Patrol Officer employed by Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) to help "clear" the desert beneath the trajectory of the Blue Streak missile, quoted in Davenport et al., below.

Further reading[edit]

  • Berndt, Ronald M. (1959). The concept of 'The Tribe' in the Western Desert of Australia, Oceania, 30(2): 81-107.
  • Davenport, S, Johnson, P and Yuwali, Cleared Out: First Contact in the Western Desert, Aboriginal Studies Press, 2005 ISBN 0-85575-457-5
  • Dusset, Laurent (2005). Assimilating Identities: Social Networks and the Diffusion of Sections. Sydney: Oceania Publications, Monograph 57.
  • Morgan, Margaret (1999). Mt Margaret: A Drop in a Bucket. Lawson, NSW: Mission Publications of Australia ISBN 978-0-646-34220-7 (out of print).
  • Harrington-Smith on behalf of the Wongatha People v State of Western Australia (No 9) Page 4 of 112 http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/federal_ct/2007/31.html 5/17/2007 accessed 5 September 2009