Who are Martu?

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A map of Martu country

The Martu are the traditional owners of the Martu native title determination spanning 13.6 million hectares, an area about twice the size of Tasmania. The determination includes parts of the Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts, collectively referred to as the Western Desert.

Across this country, Martu share a common law, culture and language. The Martu were some of the last of Australia’s Indigenous people to make contact with European Australians with many migrating from their desert lands into neighbouring pastoral stations and missions in the 1950s and 1960s.  Sometimes this migration followed the Canning Stock Route north to the eastern Kimberley or south to Wiluna and then east to Warakuna and Warburton.

Old people have first-hand experience of traditional life and have extensive traditional ecological knowledge of their country. This provides an important and time limited opportunity to preserve and transfer this knowledge before they pass away.

Like many Aboriginal people, Martu speak or understand numerous languages. For most Martu, even the children, English is a second or more language.

Martu now mainly live in the remote communities of Jigalong, Parnngurr, Punmu and Kunawarritji as well as the neighbouring towns of Newman, Port Hedland and Wiluna.

People who identify as Martu are also located in a number of Kimberley communities, particularly Bidyadanga and communities south of Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek.

Martu remain a strong and distinctive Indigenous community, with a proud identity and history. Their story through the 20th century provides a fascinating insight into the process of contact with white Australia.

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