Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Western Desert

This area is a vast plateau  of mostly red sand plains and sand ridges, that in paces alternate with clay pans. It is mostly at an altitude of 200-600 m above sealevel. A number of species of spinifex, Triodia (hummock grass) forms the dominant vegetation of the sandhill and sand plains. The annual rainfall of the area is low, about 200 mm, though the range is very wide, varying between 50 and 750 mm from year to year. The creeks and streams of the inward-draining catchment having water only for short periods after rain.

As a result of the scarcity of water, the people of the area needed to depend on waterholes and soaks, always camping in the vicinity of such water sources. As the water that was available was the result of the infrequent rain, and not from reliable permanent sources such as underground aquifers, it was necessary to travel around their country continuously, never staying around a particular water source long enough to exhaust the supply. The same applied to the search for food, any food sources would quickly be exhausted if they stayed too long in one area. 

The Western Desert, or the Western Desert Cultural Bloc, is designated by Anthropologists as an area covering about 600 000 km2, including the Gibson Desert, the Great Victoria Desert, the Great Sandy and Little Sandy Deserts in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. It covers the area from the Nullarbor Plain in the south to Kimberley in the north and farm Percival Lakes in the west to Pintupi lands in the Northern Territory. Anthropologists use this term when discussing the people covered by the speaking of about 40 different dialects of the Wati, the language spoken by the people living in these deserts.

Apart from the Canning Stock Route and the Rabbit-proof fence, white contact with this part of Australia was very rare, up until the 1960s:

Sources & Further reading

  1. Memmott, Paul, 2007, Gunyah, Goondie + Wurley: The Aboriginal Architecture of Australia, University of Queensland Press
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated  30/09/2011
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