Thursday, 02 April 2020 Sydney

Visit, Live & Invest in Central Desert::

The Northern Territory Government first announced the structural reform of local government in the Northern Territory on the 31st of January 2007. The new Central Desert Shire Council came into existence on the 1st of July 2008.


The Local Government reform changed the way local government services where delivered to people living in remote communities. Eleven new Shire Councils were established in the Northern Territory, with the five existing municipal councils (Alice Springs Town Council, Darwin City Council, Katherine Town Council, Palmerston City Council and Litchfield Council) continuing to operate.


The new Central Desert Shire takes in a large area of unincorporated land, and communities that were previously managed by the local government bodies of:


  • Anmatjere Community Government Council
  • Yuelamu Community Inc.
  • Arltarlpilta Community Government Council
  • Nyirripi Community Inc.
  • Lajamanu Community Government Council
  • Yuendumu and Willowra Community Government Council


On 1 January 2014, the NT Government enacted further reforms to local government in the Northern Territory.  The reforms mandated Local Authorities (replacing Local Boards) and changed the name of the Central Desert Shire Council to the Central Desert Regional Council.  For more information about the reform process please refer to the NTG's webiste  


The Story of our Region is available for download below.  Please note this file been broken into parts for easier downloading.


Aboriginal Languages


There are three major Aboriginal languages spoken in the Central Desert region, they are Warlpiri, Anmatjere and Eastern Arrernte. English is commonly spoken as a third or fourth language. This culturally strong and linguistically diverse region highlights the importance of maintaining strong connections to country, and healthy family relationships. Whilst each language is different, nearly all Aboriginal people living in the region can understand each other and are usually fluent in several languages.

Skin Groups


There are up to eight male and female skins groups that Warlpiri, Anmatjere and Eastern Arrernte maintain which determine the kinship systems that operate in Central Australian Aboriginal society. The kinship system is an important way in which Aboriginal society is organised around family relationships. It is a system that underpins how people relate to one another and determines people roles, responsibilities and obligations to each other, to ceremonial business and to country.


Marriage, ceremonial relationships, funeral roles and the type of behaviour appropriate between family members are all determined by the kinship system. Although there are an increasing number of ‘wrong skin’ marriages, families find ways to accommodate these contradictions. There are also particular ‘avoidance relationships’ that require a strict social distance to be maintained, such as the relationship between mother in law and son in law.


The kinship system varies between different regions and is expressed through the use of ‘skin names’ which divide societies into named categories that relate to one another through the kinship system. A person gains a skin name at birth based on the skin names of his or her parents, the skin name they are given will indicate the skin group (section/ subsection) that the person belongs to (Central Land Council, 2008).


Things to do:

Art Centres


The Central Desert has a thriving art industry with artists drawn from all corners of the region. The Warlukurlangu Artists Association, located in Yuendumu, is one such business that has been operating successfully since 1986.


It is a not for profit organisation and has more than 600 members, all of whom are Aboriginal artists. The art centre is a popular enterprise activity, and provides social, cultural and economic rewards for artists and their families.


Warlukurlangu is a cooperative and provides members with materials to produce their art. The income from sales is shared between the artist and the Warlukurlangu Art Centre. The art centre’s share pays for business operations, special projects such as bush trips where artists and family members go out to visit their country (Jukurrpa sites) up to 300kms away.  Warlukurlangu has also started its own community development initiatives and contributes funds to local projects such as the dog program.


Warlukurlangu has grown since it began in 1986 when artists worked at the Adult Education Building. In 1987 the art centre moved to a humble one-bedroom house west of the current Warlukurlangu art centre, and in 1991 the artists moved to the current building which was renovated in 2005.  The centre is described as the social and cultural ‘hub’ of the community.


The Akngerrekenhe Art Centre in Harts Range has been operating for nine years.  It is a fledging arts centre that caters to a tourist market made up of amateur mining prospectors and fossickers, and people travelling through the Plenty Highway on their way to Alice Springs and western Queensland. The artists are from the region and have recently begun holding workshops in different art mediums to develop a range of art techniques. 


The Akngerrekenhe Art Centre gallery has recently been renovated and the centre will be expanded to become a training venue where people will learn about different art mediums and techniques, retail and display skills. The Akngerrekenhe Art Centre is a member of DesArt.


The Warnayaka Art Centre in Lajamanu has worked with a number of important and widely respect artists over many years. The Centre has been closed for sometime but has recently re-opened and celebrated the incorporation of the Warnayaka Art and Cultural Aboriginal Corporation. 


The Art Centre focus is on the maintenance and transference of culture. This is achieved through close liaison between artists, elders, educational institutions and other agencies in Lajamanu.

Tourist Activities


The Central Desert Shire region has an enormous amount of tourism development potential.  Visitors to the region want to experience life in the Territory and are keen to learn and experience the rich art, culture, landscape and history of the region. 


The Tanami Road, Plenty and Stuart Highways offer spectacular landscapes and many tourists travel through the region every year.  Our roads are the gateways to a variety of tourism destinations such as the MacDonnell Ranges (including the Red Centre Way), the Kimberley and Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park. 


Tourism development depends largely on the availability of tourism infrastructure, places of interest, and tourism experiences along the way. The region offers an abundance of these experiences and the Central Desert Shire is keen to find ways to develop the tourism potential of the region in partnership with local communities, pastoralists, roadhouses and industries.


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