Book documents history of desert country


Historian Alan Powell has penned a new book documenting a significant period in Central Australian history

Historian Alan Powell has penned a new book documenting a significant period in Central Australian history

The native title claim and the subsequent hand-back of a remote pocket of desert country to the Warlpiri people in Central Australia is the subject of a new book by Charles Darwin University historian Alan Powell to be released this week.

“Desert Country: A History of Newhaven” documents a historically significant period in Central Australia, detailing the history of the area and the connection of the Ngaliya Warlpiri traditional owners to the land.

Professor Powell was commissioned to research and write the history of European contact with Newhaven by the Central Land Council as part of its successful 2010 Native Title determination.

“The area, approximately 300km west of Alice Springs, was so remote it escaped ownership by cattlemen until the 1960s,” Professor Powell said. “Even then the land remained relatively untouched and has since become a conservation reserve to protect the native plants and animals.”

The book provides a valuable contribution to the understanding of the history of Central Australia, and an insight into the background to what has become a significant part of Australia’s conservation estate, jointly managed by the Ngaliya Warlpiri traditional owners and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.

“It covers the period of the early explorers’ first visit to the area in the late 1850s, through to the establishment of mission stations and government depots and the granting of pastoral leases over the estate in the mid-20th Century,” Professor Powell said.

Along with his historical research into the area, Professor Powell worked with anthropologists and conservationists to trace the connections of the Indigenous custodians and the conservation significance of the area.

“Due to the remoteness, there had never been a permanent settlement; it had survived in its original state,” he said. “Even while the land was under a pastoral lease, the traditional owners keep visiting the area for ceremonial purposes. They had maintained a continual connection with the land.”

Alan Powell is Emeritus Professor of History at Charles Darwin University and passionate about recording the history of the Northern Territory.

Arriving in the Northern Territory in 1974, he has penned six books and 25 journal articles about the NT. He has also written three books on the Pacific war of 1939-1945.

“Desert Country: A History of Newhaven” will be launched by the Historical Society of the Northern Territory at the Northern Territory Library, Parliament House, Darwin on Friday 6 November. Also to be launched at the event is a paper by academic Derham Groves titled “Bang! Bang! Hopalong Cassidy Takes Darwin”. The event begins at 5.15 pm. For more information or to rsvp contact or T: 0468 957 843.

Contact us

Media and Communications
Casuarina campus
Orange 12.3.20