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Mina Mina and the Tanami Desert

Mina Mina is a highly significant sacred site for Aboriginal people in one of the most remote areas of Australia, the Tanami Desert. The Tanami, once considered to be the Northern Territory's final frontier, was not fully explored by Australians of European descent until well into the twentieth century.


'Mina Mina' by Judy Watson Napangardi
'Mina Mina' by Judy Watson Napangardi

Of course, these lands have been inhabited and looked after by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, the Tanami Desert is Loritja and Warlpiri country. Despite migration to cities, there are still many Aborigines from these two distinct tribes living in small settlements scattered through their traditional lands.


At 184,500 km2 the Tanami is Australia's third-largest desert. The name is thought to be an anglicisation of the Warlpiri name for the area, Chanamee, meaning never die. This name refers to certain rock holes in the desert, which were said never to run dry.


It is remote, even by Australia's standards, but not entirely inaccessible. The Tanami Road crosses the desert, but travellers need to be well prepared, the longest stretch on the road without fuel supplies is 597km.


The Tanami is the northernmost desert in Australia and the further north you travel in Australia, the more tropical the climate. In the "summer", the wet season in the tropical regions, it rains so much that desert lakes appear and the Tanami Track is often impassable due to flooding.