Spinifex Country

The Spinifex people, or Pila Nguru people, are a discrete Indigenous Australian people, whose traditional lands are situated in the Great Victoria Desert region of Western Australia, adjoining the border with South Australia, to the north of the Nullarbor Plain. They maintain to a large degree their traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle within the lands, over which their claims to Native Title with its associated rights and interests were recognized in a landmark Australian Federal Court decision. 

Pila Nguru translates as ‘people from the area between the sandhills’. Their ‘common’ name comes from the abundance of spinifex bushes, which are a feature of this remote desert region. Anthropologist Scott Cane described the area as "desert Sun and desert Shadow".

In the 1950s the British and Australian governments chose the Maralinga area for British nuclear weapons testing despite the knowledge there were tribal people living in the area. During this time, that coincided with a severe drought, the Spinifex people temporarily left the northern part of their traditional country. They moved southwest into Cundeelee Mission 200 km east of Kalgoorlie reconnecting with family groups dispersed by events to the east.

The Spinifex people were the first group in Australia to be granted exclusive Native Title rights over a large expanse of land in accordance with Section 87 (agreement) of the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993. The Native Title claim was made by twenty-one families constituting the current Spinifex people. Some Spinifex had begun returning to their land in the early 1980s. The Spinifex people now live in the two communities of Tjuntjuntjara and Ilkurlka and travel regularly through their lands to other communities in the Maralinga, Pitjantjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra lands.