Trial trip to Central Australia – June 2017. Ozstudies Pop-Up ed

I am taking some mature-age friends like me on a two-week trial Ozstudies trip into Arrernte country (Central Australia) in June. One friend is an artist and another has an interest in plants. This itinerary is for information only.

If there is enough interest from others (Central Australia is not cheap to visit) we may pop-up again!

Bruce (Japaljari) Reyburn


Itinerary Central Australia  trip June 2017

 We can only do so much in a short visit of 15 nights as there is so much to learn about and experience. This trip serves as an introduction – to provide some first-hand experience and begin to see country from bi-cultural perspective –  indigenous as well as from the more familiar non-indigenous.

I have aimed for a mix of town and country experiences, with ample time at Uluru and Arrarnta country to simply be there. Rather than a long reading list, we flow with the go. You cannot help but feel the full-on forces of creation in this part of the world.


Mparntwe/Alice Springs is in Arrernte country. The earlier spelling was ‘Aranda’ or ‘Arunta’. Further west (Western Arrernte people) the preferred spelling is ‘Arrarnta’. This country is rich in Dreaming tracks, sites and stories.

The best people to learn from about these matters are Arrernte/Arrarnta people themselves. This is easier to say than to do, but we will keep our eyes open for mentors. Their time is valuable. 


First stage: Saturday – ARRIVE IN MPARNTWE/ALICE SPRINGS (3 nights)

Pick up Alice Springs airport.

The aims here is to rest and recover from traveling internationally; to start to gain the feel of Central Australia; and to learn a little of the indigenous and non-indigenous culture and history of the town.

We can learn a lot about desert loving plants – Eremophila – and others (e.g. Hakea) in a short time at the Olive Pink Botanic Reserve (very good lunch cafe) and the Desert Park. These all have Dreaming aspects and we need to start learning to see the landscape as signified by Arrernte peoples.

What is happening in the local life and the art scene (indigenous and non-indigenous)?

Visit to Red Kangaroo Bookshop and art galleries (e.g. Araluen)

Second stage: Tuesday – TRIP TO ULURU (3 nights)

This trip gives some idea of the extent of country in Central Australia. It is almost 500km and takes 5 to 6 hours depending on stops. The days are short and we don’t want to be driving west into the setting sun if we can avoid it.

Uluru is increasingly regarded as a kind of spiritual centre in Australia (but there are sacred sites everywhere!) I thought we should do this part of trip first since most people want to see “the Rock”. I have planned for three nights there. One whole day to just be at Uluru and a second day to visit the nearby Kata Tjukas.

The Pitjantjatjara – Yankunytjatjara country may access our dreams while we sleep?

Third stage: Friday – RETURN TO MPARNTWE/ALICE SPRINGS (4 nights)

When we return to Mparntwe/Alice Springs it will already be more familiar from our first stay. While there are lots of activities, it would be good to leave this time open so we can check out anything which comes our way once we are there.

Could hire some bikes for a day trip around town or in the nearby part of the West MacDonnells on the Larapinta Trail?


We don’t have to travel so far for the trip into Larapinta country – an hour or so along the Larapinta Drive to the first stop. Larapinta is the Arrarnta name for the Finke River – a very old river, with some surprising links to the night sky in Arrarnta Dreaming stories. I have written about this cosmology. More anon.

We will visit the former Lutheran Mission at Ntaria – Hermannsburg. Lot to be said about this area – later. Albert Namatjira country; Sterhlow Father and Son, and now Arrarnta women potters (and choir).

We can camp and/or book cabin at Wallace Rockhole – Aboriginal run venture – and to do their short intro dot painting course.

If our AWD is ok for the rough sandy track along the river gorge, we plan to visit Palm Valley. Ancient Palms connected by Fire Dreaming.

Then to travel round to Tnorala – Gosse Bluff (very large impact crater and Dreaming story) to camp etc at Yapalpe -Glen Helen – great place in its own right and, fingers crossed, still serving wonderful meals in its cafe. Motel accommodation is greatly overpriced for what you get so backpacker and/or camping.

On the way back to town along the Namarjira Drive we can explore some of the Gaps in the Toritja -MacDonnell Ranges – narrow ravines, towering cliffs, waterholes – and also visit the ochre pits.

Fifth stage: Friday – RETURN TO MPARNTWE/ALICE SPRINGS (2 nights)

Follow up any leads from earlier time in town. Any local artists or other interests?

If we haven’t already seen the stars in the dark sky (the moon is against us in the early part of the trip) this will be a last chance to get out of town and see the night sky in all its glorious expanse in the desert air.

Good chance to  visit Anthwerrke – Emily Gap rich with Yeperenye – Caterpillar Dreamings as documented in Wenten Rubuntja’s life story “The Town grew up dancing.” (No photos of rock art) and for a final billy and cooking on a fire at the nearby Tyethe – Jessie Gap.

Finally. Sunday – Alice Springs airport. Depart for other destinations.


Some useful Arrarnta/Arrernte resources

Self-exercise 1.

Locate Arrernte language on this AIATSIS map:

Arrernte is also spelt Arrarnta (for Western Arrernte); and formerly,  Aranda and Arunta. Linguists say it is definitely Arr…. (double r) and not Ar…

Note the two different contemporary spellings of ‘Arrarnta’ and ‘Arrernte’. That is because there are two competing orthographies – the former (which is easier for English speakers to recognise) is said (Strehlow Research Centre) to be preferred by Western Arrarnta people themselves (so i am told) and the latter is preferred by linguists as it is more accurate (but less easy for  English speakers to recognise).

Read one account of this at:

The Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) IAD Press in Alice Springs/Mparntwe has really good language (and other) resources, but some are often out of stock. See Their website mentions their Apple app but I could not find it?

Here’s two useful dictionaries for Western Arrarnta. 

WAPD compress.jpg

Self-Exercise 2. Have a look at the notes from inside the Western Arrarnta Picture Dictionary regarding the cover picture and compare the Arrarnta – English translation. Name some plants? Marna means ‘food, vegetables and fruit.’

cover notes WAPD compress.jpg

IDWA compressed.jpg

These apps in Apple Store are well worth a look and a good place to start:

Sir Joseph Banks evidence to 1785 Convict Committee

Here is a transcript of the evidence of Sir Joseph Banks to the 1785 United Kingdom “Convict Committee” seeking a new location to send convicted citizens after the loss of the colonies in North America.

The British authorities were interested in South-West  Africa as New Holland/New South Wales etc was so far away by ship. But the reports about their location in South-West Africa were unfavourable so … with the prisons and the Hulks on the Thames overflowing – a social crisis –  the British government made a decision in Cabinet to send convicts to Botany Bay.

I only have five pages of this transcript, which was part of a book of facsimile documents involved in the decision to establish a penal colony in ‘New South Wales’. I did not record the name of the book and cannot find details online. Excellent reading for the serious scholar – really takes you back (as it were) to those times. (I will keep trying to locate the source document.)

While Sir Joseph Banks evidence is little hard to decipher it is legible. The format consists of questions and reply.

Note that Banks is talking about the area around Botany Bay and the southern part of the East Coast.


Ozstudies Popup – Ed. No.1 – Comparing fantasy structures in Oz

By Way of Intro.

Our home planet seems to have an endless capacity to accommodate all manner of fantasy structures. These exist in our imaginations as surely as there is an atmosphere. To that extent they are real, even though they are as tangible as rainbows.

We are all dreamers – we  live out our lives in terms of these fantasy structures.

The creations of our imaginations are both wonderful and dreadful things. Wonderful in what we can create, and often dreadful in terms of the acts of folly into which they may lead us.

Since fantasy structures frame our experience it is often extremely difficult to turn our direct attention to them.

In this short course i will begin by comparing and contrasting some aspects of the fantasy structures of this country’s First Peoples and some of those of Anglo-Australia. The former is well-earthed and the latter a comparative new-comer. Both have remarkable qualities.

I am not sure where this will lead, but i do have a beginning and am intent in setting out. I doubt if there can be a final destination. So when it ceases to be interesting, i will stop.

I do not know if others will join me in this Pop-Up Ed opportunity. We will have to see how it shapes up as we go along.

In my next post i will start with a quote from the Englishman once dubbed “The Father of Australia” – Sir Joseph Banks – and show just how mistaken he was by looking at a non-secret Arrarnta myth-narrative collected by Carl Strehlow.

Bruce (Japaljari)  Reyburn

22 March 2017