The Utopia region is located 240 kilometres north east of Alice Springs. It is home to around 2000 people, mainly Alyawarre speakers, who live in twenty five outstations flanking the Sandover River. Other languages such as Kaytetye, Anmatyerre and some Arrernte are also spoken. Most people speak some English. Traditional culture is very strong and the community is governed by the traditional owners.
Utopia covers approximately 1800 square kilometres region of desert country. Previously pastoral land, the country has been owned by the community since 1972 and has not been grazed significantly since that time so it has largely returned to its natural state. The country is mainly mulga scrub and spinifex on red sandy flats, broken up by dry river beds lined with gum trees and paperbarks.
Some of the outstations in Utopia include: Arlparra (the main store), Atneltye (Boundary Bore), Lyentye (Mosquito Bore), Atnarare (Soakage Bore), Arrawarre (Soapy Bore), Irrultja (Irrweltye), Ingkwelaye (Kurrajong Bore), Ankerrapwe (Utopia Homestead) and Artekerre (Three Bores). These communities are shown on the Map of Utopia (opens in a new browser window).
Utopia Community History
The region was named Utopia by the first white settlers in 1927, apparently in anticipation of an idyllic life after they found rabbits so tame that they could be caught easily by hand. The reality proved rather different for them. It has an arid climate with low rainfall and long hot summers, frosty winter nights and only limited vegetation cover on the sandy red soils.
When European pastoralists settled in Utopia in the 1920s, the Aboriginal owners were forced to move away from their country and ceremonial sites and instead lived near the various homesteads.
Many Aboriginal men worked as stockmen and Aboriginal women as domestic help in exchange for food rations and clothing. They provided cheap but necessary labour for the station.
It was not until 1967 that legislation was passed requiring Aboriginal workers to be paid at the same rate as white people doing similar work. One unfortunate consequence of the requirement for equal pay was that many Aboriginal workers lost their jobs and were displaced from their country.
This strengthened their desire to regain control of their country, and claims for control of their traditional lands were made under newly introduced laws.
In 1981 a successful land claim over the Utopia station resulted in the community gaining permanent legal title to the land. Rather than establishing a central town, the owners chose to live in small outstations or camps which they refer to as their “Homelands”.