Aboriginal people have lived in Australia forever. The movement of human population into what is now the Australian continent has been dated to over 50,000 years ago, which is at the dawn of human history given that modern human populations only moved out of Africa 50,000 to 55,000 years ago.
Aboriginal people have lived in central Australia for over 40,000 years. The Arrernte (pronounced arrunda) people are the original and traditional custodians of Alice Springs, which is built on Arrernte country, in the heart of Central Australia. It’s at a place called Mparntwe, belonging to the Mparntwe-arenye people. Mparntwe is pronounced m’barn-twa. Try saying mm-BARN-doo-uh…that’s it, Mparntwe.
Arrernte stories describe how the landscape surrounding Mparntwe, including Tjoritja, the MacDonnell Ranges, was created by the actions of their ancestors, the caterpillar beings Ayepe-arenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye. Creation stories also explain the traditional connection with more distant areas such as Urlatherrke (Mount Zeil) in the West MacDonnell Ranges, to Port Augusta in South Australia.
Arrernte people living in Mparntwe continue to observe traditional law, look after the country, and teach their children Arrernte language and identity. Arrernte people also provide leadership in community, social and business sectors, in literature and arts, and in local and Territory politics.
Find out more about Arrernte language, tradition and identity
The language spoken at the place called Mparntwe and along the East and West MacDonnell Ranges is Arrernte. This language is broken up into dialects Central, Eastern, Western (starts at Jay Creek) and Southern Arrernte. Dialect means the fairly closely related varieties of a language where speakers of one dialect can understand most of what speakers of another dialect is saying.
We recommend that you:
Visit Akeyulerre, the Arrernte Healing Centre. Akeyulerre is a vibrant centre for Arrernte elders to share cultural knowledge, language and healing practices. Akeyulerre makes and sells traditional bush medicines, as well as books, posters and other resources created by Arrernte people. Akeyulerre is temporarily located at 40 South Terrace Alice Springs until the new Arrernte Living Culture Centre on Stuart Terrace is built in 2023.
Learn Arrernte words and phrases
Take an Arrernte audio walking tour through Alice Springs CBD
Awemele Itelaretyeke (Listen to Understand) is an app created by Arrernte people. It was created for the next generation of Arrernte people. It promotes Arrernte language of Mparntwe.
It contains audio content for engaging with Central/Eastern Arrernte, the first language of Mparntwe Alice Springs. It has two audio walking tours and numerous words and phrases to listen to and learn.
“We do language work ampe ingkernerenye mape-ke – for those children who come after us. It’s for the kids first, and for all Arrernte people, so they can be proud of who they are. That’s the most important thing for us. And then secondly, for non-Aboriginal people. So they can akaltye-irremele – learn – and itelaretyeke – understand. So they might understand more about being here on our country – Apmere Mparntwe, and the neighbouring areas.
The app gives people in Mparntwe another way to access the sound of Central/Eastern Arrernte language alongside the written words, and to see this place through the eyes of a group of Mparntwe’s custodians. It is just one resource in an incredible legacy of enduring knowledge work carried out by Arrernte custodians working today, and those who have come before.”
[quotes from the Awemele Itelaretyeke – Listen to Understand]
Click to download for Android or iOS, or search for ‘Awemele itelaretyeke’ in the app store or google play store.
Gaining a deeper understanding
We recommend our guests explore the website Common Ground if they are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of First Nations knowledge and cultures. Common Ground encourage that the more people who learn and connect with First Nations people and experiences, the more they will understand and respect First Nation communities. The more we all know, the more we can help shape the systems that govern their lives, so they centre First Nations people, cultures and solutions.
Another resource is Deep Collaboration that asks people to consider their level of self-awareness, history and understanding of the impacts of colonisation on Australia before stepping forward to take part in finding new ways for First Nations and other multicultural Australians to lead together. Download the free E-book Lost Conversations about finding new ways for black and white Australians to lead together.