The Arrernte People

The Arrernte (pronounced Ah-runda) people are the original indigenous inhabitants of Arrernte lands, the land occupied by the township of Alice Springs (Mparntwe) at its centre, the land to the east as far as Wallace Rock Hole and, to the west to Watarrka (Kings Canyon) and as far as the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park.

They have been living on these lands for in excess of 20,000 but possibly as much as 40,000.

Arrernte languages are a closely related group of languages spoken by the various sub tribes. There are 3 distinct groups within the Arrernte group:

  • The Central Arrernte that live around the town of Mparntwe (Alice Springs)
  • The Eastern Arrernte that live east of Alice Springs
  • The Western Arrernte that live west of Alice Springs

To the Arrernte, their language is more than just a way of speaking. It goes to the core of who they are; their cultural identity, their belief systems and their social order. Rather than speaking it, they are it.

The language is very common in and around Alice Springs and one of the most common indigenous languages spoken. With as many as 25% of the Alice Springs population speaking Arrernte as a first language, many businesses in Alice Springs require their staff to learn some basic Arrernte so as to communicate with the large numbers of Arrernte speaking people.

The language is also taught in most primary schools to students of all nationalities as a compulsory language as well as an option at most secondary schools (High School).