Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

In traditional Anangu society, men and women have distinct but equally important roles, performing specific tasks that benefit the whole community.

This separation of responsibilities by gender is determined by Tjukurpa. It ensures a balance of work underpinned by a strong sense of cooperation.

Women were traditionally responsible for gathering water and bush foods such as fruits, seeds, vegetables, maku (edible grubs) and tjala (honey ants). They also hunted small food animals like tinka (goanna), ngintaka (perentie), kuniya (woma python), rapita (rabbit) and tjilkamata (echidna).

Men were responsible for making tools and hunting larger game such as malu (red kangaroo), kanyala (euro) and kalaya (emu).

Children also had an important role to play in gathering and hunting. They accompanied their parents and other adults to collect bush food, playing, digging and working with the adults while watching and learning.

Women’s business

Anangu spend a lifetime learning rich cultural traditions from their elders.

Young girls go with their grandmothers, aunties, mothers and older sisters to learn about collecting and preparing bush food.

They learn women’s Tjukurpa and the proper way to track animals, hunt and prepare bush medicines.

Girls build on their knowledge and skills throughout their lives. They learn to craft and use women’s tools like the wana (digging stick), wira (coolamon), piti (bowl) and manguri (head ring).

They collect kampurarpa (bush raisins), ili (bush fig), arnguli (bush plum), parkilypa (parakeelya) and other foods from plants. Seeds from wanganu (naked woolybutt), kaltu-kaltu (native millet), wakati (pigweed), wakalpuka (dead finish) and wintalyka (mulga seeds) are collected, separated and ground to make latja (food paste) or nyuma (seed cakes).

Women know about the seasonal cycles and habitats of animals and plants and how to use plants to create bush medicines.

Men’s business

There is a big difference between boys and men in Anangu culture.

Boys live with their mothers and sisters and know little about men’s Tjukurpa. But as they get older, they are required to learn the skills and knowledge they need to be a man. During this process, male elders introduce them to secret ceremonies, songs and men’s sacred sites.

Young boys travel across the country with the men, learning where the ancestral beings went and how they changed the country.

They learn where to find water and where to hunt for kuka (meat). They hunt malu (red kangaroo), kalaya (emu), kanyala (euro), kipara (bush turkey) and large lizards such as ngintaka (perentie) and tinka (goanna). They learn the habits of these animals, how to recognise their tracks, and the kind of country they like.

They also learn how to make and use men’s tools and weapons, such as kulata (spears), miru (spear throwers) and tjutinypa (fighting clubs). The young men are taught how to make sharp kanti (stone knives) by hammering flakes of quartz, how to use tjanpi (spinifex) to make kiti (spinifex resin), and how to sharpen tjiwa, the grindstones that women use.

They learn how to use miru to make fire, how to carry fire from place to place, and how to burn the spinifex country while travelling.

These skills, as well as new ones, are still being passed on from generation to generation of Anangu men.

Anangu still hunt in remote areas of the park and on Aboriginal land surrounding Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. However, they hunt only common species to avoid disrupting any local animal populations.

Want to know more about men’s and women’s business?

Take the minymaku (women’s) and waitku (men’s) walks at Talinguru Nyakunytjaku to explore the different responsibilities of men and women in Anangu society.