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Sacred places | Kata Tjuta


Kata Tjuta means 'many heads', it is a stunning rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory made up of 36 enormous domes. They cover an area of 21.68 km2 and the highest point is 546 metres tall, which is 198 m higher than Uluru (Ayers rock)!


A scared place for 'Anangu'

The Pitjantjatjara Aborigines, who call themselves ‘Anangu’ (meaning people), habit in this part of Australia. They live mostly in the northwest of South Australia and just across the border of the Northern Territory. There are about 4,000 Anangu living in small communities across their traditional lands. Aborigines have largely given up a nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle, but have retained many of their languages and much of their ancient culture. Their land is an inseparable part of their identity, and every part of it is rich with stories and meaning: They believe the great rocks of Kata Tjuta are home to spirit energy from the 'Dreaming' and this makes it a sacred place

Men's Business

In traditional Aboriginal culture many sacred sites are strictly for ‘Men’s business’ or ‘Women’s business’ and Kata Tjuta is a site strictly for men. Legend has is that if either or a man or women learns the other groups’ sacred secrets they will be punished by the spirits, even put to death!

Dreamtime Myths

There are many Pitjantjatjara Dreamtime stories linked to Kata Tjuta, however the majority of these sacred myths are not told to outsiders. Of those which have been shared, a number surround the legend of the great snake king Wanambi, who is said to live on the summit of Kata Tjuta . During the rainy season he stays curled up in a waterhole on the summit, but during the dry season he moves down to the gorge below and visits caves around the formations. His beard hairs are the dark lines on the eastern side of the rock and his breath is the wind blowing through the gorge - when he gets angry it is said to transform into a hurricane to punish those who did evil deeds.


Modern Times

In modern times the formations have been known by an English name ‘The Olga’s’ named by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg in 1872. In 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted to reinstate the traditional Aboriginal name alongside the English name. As a result, Mount Olga was renamed Mount Olga / Kata Tjuta and in 2002 the order of the dual names was rightly officially reversed, to Kata Tjuta / Mount Olga.

Since 1995 Kata Tjuta and Uluru are once again being used for cultural ceremonies. The sites

are now protected as the ‘Uluru kata Tjuta National Park’, and the area has UNESCO world heritage status for its spectacular geology and cultural significance. The park is managed jointly by the Anangu and Piranpa (white people) under the message ‘tjunguringka warkarpipai’, which means working together. It is a successful example of co-operation, promoting cross cultural awareness between this lands original inhabitants and modern Australia.


If you like this, why not have a look at our previous Sacred places blog on

The Pinnacles National Park, it is a truly amazing place!

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© Nadia Phillips 2020