Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara

local government area in South Australia

Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) is a large area of Aboriginal land in the north west corner of South Australia. It belongs to the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra peoples (or Aṉangu). Native title was granted by the government of David Tonkin on 30 October 1981. The land covers about 102,650 square kilometres (39,630 sq mi), about 10.4% of the state.[2] It is one of the 74 local government areas of South Australia.

Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
South Australia
Location of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
Population2,230 (2006 Census)[source?]
 • Density0.02172/km2 (0.0563/sq mi)
Area102,650 km2 (39,633.4 sq mi)
MayorBernard Singer
Council seatUmuwa
RegionFar North[1]
State electorate(s)Giles
Federal division(s)Grey
WebsiteAnangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
LGAs around Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara:
MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Kaltukatjara, NT) MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Imanpa, NT) MacDonnell Shire, Iyarrka Ward (Aputula (Finke), NT)
Ngaanyatjarraku, WA Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Unincorporated area of South Australia
Laverton Shire, WA Maralinga Tjarutja, SA Unincorporated area of South Australia

The APY lands are arid and very remote. It is mostly flat, except for the Everard Ranges in the east and Musgrave Ranges along the border with the Northern Territory. There are about 2500 people living on the lands.



The area covered by APY represents the southern portion of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara homelands; the northern portion is in the Northern Territory, surrounding Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. In 1921, the western half of what is now the APY lands was made into the North-West Aboriginal Reserve.[3] This was alongside another reserve across the border in the Northern Territory, called the Petermann Reserve. Both reserves were intended to form a temporary refuge (safe place) for Aboriginal people. The government said they could continue their nomadic lifestyle there until they could be assimilated into modern society.[4] The eastern half of what is now the APY lands was part of the Woomera Test Range during the 1950s and 1960s. The boundary of the range was later moved further south, and the land was then leased to cattle farmers.

In 1966, South Australia passed the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act. It was the first piece of legislation (law) in Australia to recognise Aboriginal land rights and allow for Aboriginal groups to be given land based on how they had lived there.[5] No other state or territory would enact anything like it until 10 years later. In 1976, the Pitjantjatjara Council made an formal claim to the lands around the Musgrave Ranges. It was done on behalf of all Aṉangu with historical connections to the area. Premier Don Dunstan and his government proposed a bill to parliament in 1978, intending to grant the Pitjantjatjara rights to their land. However, opal miners strongly objected to the proposal. They had set up mining camps at Mintabie, within the area that would be given to the Aṉangu. The government changed after state elections in 1979. The new government of David Tonkin had years of negotiations with the Pitjantjatjara Council and the miners at Mintabie. A parliamentary committee produced a final decision on 2 March 1981. It said that the Mintabie area should be included in the grant of land, but be leased back to the government so that mining can continue there. The bill was approved by parliament on the same day.[6]

Tonkin signed the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act on 2 October 1981, putting the bill into effect. The freehold title to the land was given to the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra peoples, who formed a council as the local government.[7] The grant included the former leasehold areas in the eastern portion: Everard Park, Kenmore Park and Granite Downs.[3] A portion of the southeast of the APY lands (about 4,500 km2 or 1,700 sq mi) still overlaps with the Woomera Test Range.

The lease for Mintabie lasted for 21 years, expiring in 2002. New legislation in 2009 allowed for another lease, which was signed in April 2012.[6]



The APY is one of 74 local government areas of South Australia. It includes a number of settlement communities, as well as over 50 family outstations (referred to as "homelands"). Most of the settlements are located in the far north. The administrative centre for the APY is Umuwa. The four largest towns, as recorded in the 2006 census are Iwantja (339 people), Pukatja (332), Amata (319) and Mimili (303). The only non-indigenous community is the opal-mining town of Mintabie (250 people). The other settlement communities are: Kaltjiti, Watarru, Kanpi, Nyapari, Kalka, Pipalyatjara, Yunyarinyi and Watinuma.

In the 2006 census, there were 2,230 people living on the APY Lands. About 84.5% of them were Indigenous Australians. Over half (58.6%) of residents listed Pitjantjatjara as the language spoken at home; 14.3% listed Yankunytjatjara; and 18.7% gave English as their spoken language.



There has not been much economic development, except for tourism. There have been proposals to mine in the area. The Musgrave Ranges is estimated to contain rich mineral and petroleum deposits. The APY government has not allowed mining so far, because it is concerned about the social impacts it may have, and the possible impacts on sacred sites and the environment.[8]

Social issues


Two major issues throughout the APY Lands are the low standard of health care (compared to the rest of Australia) and drug abuse (usually alcohol, petrol sniffing, cannabis and, more recently, other illegal drugs). The fact that the indigenous area crosses over three jurisdictions (South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory) has made enforcing drug-trafficking laws difficult.[9] An inquiry into child sexual abuse on the APY Lands was done by a retired Supreme Court judge. It was completed in 2008, and found that this had been a widespread problem in several of the APY communities for many years.[10]

In early August 2007, the South Australian government announced a A$34 million plan to "improve well-being of Aboriginal people" in the APY Lands. $25m will be spent on improving housing and most of the remaining $8m on law enforcement in Amata and Pukatja.[11]


  1. "Far North SA Government Region" (PDF). Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  2. Native Title Research Unit. "South Australia: Land Rights". Native Title Resource Guide. Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Archived from the original on 3 July 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lawson, Robert. "The Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981". The Bennelong Society. The Bennelong Society Inc. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  4. Layton, Robert (1986). Uluru: an Aboriginal history of Ayers Rock. Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. p. 73. ISBN 9780855751616.
  5. O'Connor, Alan (18 December 1996). "Aboriginal Lands in South Australia". South Australian Year Book, 1997. Department of State Aboriginal Affairs; Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "APY Lands: renewal of the Mintabie lease". The Paper Tracker. Uniting Communities. 25 October 2007. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  7. "Organizations". Waru. PY Media. Archived from the original on 19 July 2007. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  8. Haxton, Nance (27 October 2003). "Anangu Pitjantjatjara people agree to discussions with mining industry". The World Today. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-06-05.
  9. Riches, Sam; Shepherd, Tory; Vaughn, Joanna (22 July 2007). "Battle to stop drugs in APY Lands". Adelaide Advertiser. News Limited. Archived from the original on 13 August 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  10. Mullighan, Ted. "Children on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands". Commission of Inquiry, South Australia. Archived from the original on 21 November 2012. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  11. "$34 million package for the APY Lands". Minister Weatherill Media Release. 3 August 2007. Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 8 August 2007.

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