Pikilyi water rights - human rights

  • Lisa Patricia Watts
  • Simon Fisher

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    The thesis focuses on Pikilyi, the most culturally significant area for all Warlpiri. The meaning of Pikilyi and changes that were brought about by vhite settlement are presented from a Warlpiri perspective. Pikilyi is defined by a most unusual geological formation that supports an area oflush vegetation and springs. It comprises a large catchment area, a deep natural basin which holds an immense water supply of exceptional quality. The Warlpiri regard the water as sacred and Pikilyi as their holy land. Pikilyi ensured the survival of the Warlpiri who lived in one of the driest parts of the Australian continent.

    The Warlpiri enjoyed social, political and cultural autonomy until they were dispossessed of their lands. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, they were free to practice their religion which was sustained by a cosmology that defined the importance of particular places. Ngurrapurlangu, at Pikilyi is the most important ceremonial ground, ceremonies there were attended by senior law people from surrounding tribes.

    The policies and practices of colonization which led to the dispossession of Pikilyi had a devastating impact on its Warlpiri owners and guardians. Their water sources were destroyed or contaminated by the introduction of mining and pastoral activities and they were denied access to Pikilyi. The most fundamental incompatibility was the arrival of cattle which trampled their ground and contaminated their holy waters.

    Legislation passed by Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments provided little protection for the human rights of Warlpiri people while protecting the rights of pastoralists and miners, in addition, governments failed to enforce the regulations designed to protect its indigenous people and were thus negligent because they did not exercise the duty of care owed to the Waripiri.

    As a result of this negligence, the Warlpiri endured many traumas over many years from which they are only now recovering. The thesis research was an important factor in this recovery which they hope will eventuate in regaining ownership of Pikilyi.

    Note: Permission to digitise thesis not granted.
    Date of Award2000
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorNancy Williams (Supervisor)

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