History, location

Ntaria, also known as Hermannsburg, lies on the banks of Lhere Pinte (Finke River) in the country of the Arrarnta people, who have lived in the area for tens of thousands of years.

The current settlement began its life as a Lutheran mission in 1877, when missionaries from Germany made their way north from what is now known as the Barossa Valley to establish a mission in central Australia for Aboriginal people. The Arrarnta people would have, by the time the missionaries arrived, already encountered white people entering their country, with the Overland Telegraph line being established 130 km to the east in the early 1870s, followed by the expeditions of Giles and Gosse in the mid 1870s who ventured further through Arrarnta country, including in the region of the modern day Ntaria.

The German missionaries were interested in Aboriginal people and made efforts to learn the local language and to translate materials into Arrarnta. They began schooling children and welcomed people from around the area, many of whom were being pushed off their land by pastoralists.

The mission endured many tough times, including droughts and disease, and on more than one occasion it appeared that the mission would close down. After the building of a pipeline from Kaporilja Springs in 1936, Hermannsburg finally had a permanent water supply and this allowed the mission to expand.

In the 1960s some of the missionaries, recognising the demands of local people that they should be more involved in the running of the mission, started working on developing local governance for this to take place. This gained momentum in the early 1970s with the arrival of what is now known as the self-determination era. This saw moves to hand the land back to its Traditional Owners under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory ) Act and the accompanying rise of the outstation movement, with people moving out from Ntaria back to their traditional lands. It was during this period that the land surrounding Ntaria was allocated to landowning groups through the declaration of five separate Land Trusts: Ntaria, Uruna, Roulpmaulmpa, Rodna and Ltalaltuma.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s structures to support people on homelands grew. This included organisations, such as the Tjuwanpa Outstation resource centre, but also included programs such as CDEP (Community Development Employment Projects) that enabled people to be paid for performing work on their own country.

The 2000s saw the dismantling of many of the systems of the ‘self determination era’, and the introduction of what has been called the ‘shared responsibility, mutual obligation’ era. This era has seen more direct intervention by government, and probably best exemplified by the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) which began with much fanfare in 2007, and included a visit to Ntaria by the then Prime Minister John Howard to explain to people firsthand the rationale behind the policy. This heralded in new changes for community governance, with the setting up of Local Reference Groups to guide the development of Local Implementation Plans. In Ntaria this LRG was renamed by local people the Wurla Nyinta (reference group).