Papunya Native Settlement was officially opened by the Welfare Branch of the Northern Territory Administration in March 1959. The site for the settlement was chosen by the government as a solution to overcrowding and the lack of water at the Haast's Bluff Native Settlement, 40 kilometres away. Building began in 1956 with Aboriginal people contributing a large part of the labour force. By 1959, more than 700 people, many of whom had been living at Haast's Bluff, were living at Papunya. The government also worked at bringing Pintupi people into the settlement from the surrounding desert areas.
A government school was opened in 1960 and approximately 112 children attended. The school was described as follows in an award winning history book for children, The Papunya School Book of Country and History:
'In those days children had to have a shower and change into school uniforms when they came to school. They lined up and went into their classrooms. At the end of the day, children put their camp clothes on again. At this time children were not allowed to speak their own language at school. They were meant to learn only the whitefella way of doing things. Teachers were very strict.'
No dormitories were built and children continued to live in family groups. The Lutheran Hermannsburg Mission sent a resident missionary to the Papunya Settlement to provide church services and some welfare services. During the 1960s and 1970s many people moved away from Papunya to outstations.
The Papunya Art movement began in 1972 and Papunya continues to be world renowned for its Aboriginal art.
In 1978 the Papunya Council was formed and Aboriginal people gradually took control of their own community. In 1999 the land was handed back to its traditional owners after a successful land claim.
08 June 2021
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/nt/YE00051
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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