Please note: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, voices or names of deceased persons in photographs, film, audio recordings or printed material.

Some material may contain terms that reflect authors’ views, or those of the period in which the item was written or recorded, but may not be considered appropriate today. These views are not necessarily the views of AIATSIS. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.

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Tjukurpa

The traditional owners of Uluru Kata Tjuta call themselves Anangu (pronounced arn-ahng-oo). Tjukurpa is the foundation of Anangu life and society.

Tjukurpa has many complex but complementary meanings and refers to the creation period when ancestral beings created the world as we now know it. Tjukurpa also refers to the present and future.

Tjukurpa encompasses religion, law and moral systems, it defines the relationship between people, plants, animals and the physical features of the land. Tjukurpa contains the knowledge of how these relationships came to be, what they mean and how they must be maintained.

Living practice

Tjukurpa comes first for the Anangu and in practice this means:

  • Passing on knowledge to young men and women;
  • Learning to find water and bush food;
  • Travelling around country;
  • Learning about bush medicines;
  • Visiting sensitive sites;
  • Bringing up children strong and caring for children;
  • Making country alive with stories, ceremony and song;
  • Cleaning and protecting the waterholes;
  • Collecting bush foods and seeds; and
  • Looking after country, for example, traditional burning.

The Anangu and Yanangu

The Aboriginal traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park have looked after, and in turn been looked after by, the land for over one thousand generations. They have an intimate cultural knowledge of the environment in which they live and their traditions and practices connected to the landscape are guided by Tjurkpa, the Law.

Pitjantjatjara and Yankunyjtatjara are the two main dialects spoken in by the traditional owners.

In Pitjantjatjara, the Anangu and in Yankunyjtatjara, the Yanangu is the term used for Aboriginal people from the Western Desert region.

Anangu/Yanangu and their culture have always been associated with Uluru. According to Anangu/Yanangu, the landscape was created at the beginning of time by ancestral beings.

As direct descendants of the ancestral beings, Anangu/Yanangu are responsible for the protection and appropriate management of these lands. The knowledge and responsibility required to do this is passed down from generation to generation through Tjukurpa.

"There is strong and powerful Aboriginal Law in this place. There are important songs and stories that we hear from our elders, and we must protect and support this important Law. There are sacred things here and this sacred Law is very important. It was given to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, our father and mothers, to hold onto in our heads and in our hearts."Traditional Owner Tony Tjamiwa

Uluru

Anangu believe that before Uluru was created the world was a featureless place without plants, animals or landforms.

Uluru is sacred and a place of great knowledge for the Anangu people.

Traditional owners believe ancestral beings travelled across the lands in a process of formation and destruction that gave rise to the existing landscapes. The ancestral beings are in the form of people, plants and animals.

The Anangu believe these landscapes are still inhabited by the spirits of those ancestral beings, which they refer to as Tjukuritja or Waparitja.

There are many creation stories associated with Uluru that are kept by the Anangu people.

Uluru rises to a height of 348 metres. This is higher than either the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Chrysler Building in New York. It has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres.

Under traditional law climbing Uluru is not permitted and the Anangu people request visitors respect their law and not climb.

Instead the Anangu invite visitors to walk around the base of Uluru to discover an appreciation and deeper understanding of this very special unique place in the world.

Traditional Owner, Barbara Tjikatu

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta is a sacred site for Anangu men and holds many creation stories.

These culturally significant stories are kept by the Anangu people.

According to Tjukurpa, the Anangu have always shown respect when visiting Kata Tjuta.

They would camp a short distance away and walk in quietly.

They would not swim in the water. Women entered this area as well to collect food and water but always behaved appropriately.

Kata Tjuta is made up of 36 domes and means “many heads” in the language of the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe.

The ancient rock formation is about 30 kilometres from Uluru and covers an area of about 20 square kilometres. Geologists estimate the large sandstone formation is about 500 million years old.

The respect for Kata Tjuta shown by the Anangu people in ancient times remains today.

Visitors are encouraged to show that same respect. Walk quietly, tread lightly, stay on the track and enjoy this sacred place.

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AIATSIS acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community.

We pay our respects to elders past and present.