Indigenous Culture in the West MacDonnell Ranges

Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park is not only one of the most stunning natural landscapes of Australia but also a deeply rich cultural site for its traditional owners, the Arrernte people.

The ridges of the MacDonnell Ranges are the focus of their important Dreamtime creation stories and are said to have been created by giant caterpillars (Yeperenye). Come and absorb the beauty of this mythical land.


Indigenous Culture

To understand the indigenous culture in the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, one must understand the deep relationship the people have with the land. The natural geological sites throughout the ranges, from Standley Chasm to Ellery Creek and Glen Helen Gorge, as well as the flora and fauna native to the region have held mythical importance for the Arrernte people for thousands of years. This cultural significance is expressed through ancient Dreamtime stories as well as ongoing traditions of rock art, dance, and hunting rituals.

Ikuntji Artists Eunice Napanangka Jack Photographer Tobias Titz

Ikuntji Artist, Eunice Napanangka Jack, painting. 

Ikuntji Arts

Ikuntji is the Arrernte name for the Hassts Bluff community, located 250km west of Alice Springs. Art has had an enormous cultural significance for the local people over millennia and the tradition is carried forward in the modern era, particularly with the establishment of the Ikuntji Art Centre in 1992.

You can visit the centre to meet the artists and see them work on their now globally renowned contemporary indigenous art, which represents Dreamtime stories and culturally important landmarks. 


Ochre Pits

The Ochre Pits 110km west of Alice Springs are an ancient cultural site important to the Arrernte people for thousands of years. The ochre mined here is culturally significant as the primary material for traditional rock art in the region, as well as more contemporary art. It is also used in ritual body decoration and ornamentation of spears to improve hunting success and ward off termites. 

The ochre from this site ranges in colour from white to earthy browns and brighter hues of yellow, orange, and red. The pits are open to visitors for free and can be found between Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge, with signage indicating the correct turn-off.

Ochre Pits

Ochre Pits

Albert Namatjira 

Albert Namatjira was an Aboriginal artist hailing from the Arrernte people of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Founder of the Hermannsburg School of painting, Namatjira was famous for using Western watercolour techniques to depict the picturesque beauty of his Central Australia homeland.

Visit Aboriginal Cultural Attractions Around the West MacDonnell Ranges


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