Kapi Wiya: Water insecurity and aqua-nullius in remote inland Aboriginal Australia

Barry Judd

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Water has been a critical resource for Anangu peoples across the remote inland for millennia, underpinning their ability to live in low rainfall environments. Anangu biocultural knowledge of kapi (water) developed in complex ways that enabled this resource to be found. Such biocultural knowledge included deep understandings of weather patterns and of species behavior. Kapi and its significance to desert-dwelling peoples can be seen in ancient mapping practices, whether embedded in stone as petroglyphs or in ceremonial song and dance practices associated with the Tjukurpa. While in the past the sustainability of kapi was facilitated by mobility that spread human dependence on this resource across multiple sites, since the 1940s Anangu have been coerced by the settler-colonial state to live a sedentary lifestyle in remote communities such as Haasts Bluff, Papunya and Yuendemu. In many of these communities the supply of kapi is becoming increasingly insecure in terms of viability of supply, cost, quality and threats from mining. This paper provides a brief insight into how kapi has become devalued in the context of contemporary remote communities with particular reference to my area of expertise – Aboriginal identity, well-being and Australian sports.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)102-118
    Number of pages17
    JournalThesis Eleven
    Issue number1
    Early online date14 Jan 2019
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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