The vast emptiness of Central Australia is deceptive. While it doesn’t have the castles and cathedrals of Europe, those prepared to look deeper into our Red Centre will discover the world’s oldest living culture, a civilisation so intertwined with the land it is impossible to understand one without the other.
That journey of discovery begins at Alice Springs and continues through the Red Centre Way, with each major stop-over – the West MacDonnell Ranges, King’s Canyon, Uluru – cared for by different language groups, each with their own stories and traditions.
The Alice (or Mparntwe in the local Aboriginal language) was established in 1872 with the construction of a repeater station for the Australian Overland Telegraph Line. However, Alice Springs and surrounds has been occupied for tens of thousands of years by the Arrernte people who used it as a place of meeting and trade.
So before you head out to explore the region, begin your engagement with Arrernte culture in Alice Springs, which has an array of important sites, museums, galleries and activities that will get you started on your journey of discovery into our country’s foundational culture.
Araluen Arts Centre
Built around a 300-year-old tree and located at the heart of the Araluen Cultural Precinct (which includes the Museum of Central Australia, the Strehlow Research Centre and many Arrernte sacred sites), the Araluen Arts Centre is the visual and performing arts hub of Central Australia. The Araluen Galleries showcase the origins and continuing evolution of the Contemporary Aboriginal Art movement and includes work by celebrated watercolourist Albert Namatjira.
Many Hands Arts Centre
The work of Arrernte artists continuing to follow in the footsteps of Namatjira can be seen at this vibrant arts centre established in 2004. Namatjira taught his children and grandchildren to use water colours to capture the beauty of the Central Desert. That work can be purchased at the gallery, with profits helping to support the local artists, cultural maintenance and the running of the art centre.