Spinifex community grows
Jessica Graham and Marlene Hogan at the barbecue fundraiser. Picture: Liam Byrne

Time moves at a different pace in the Western Desert, a landscape which has been largely unchanged for millions of years.

But even here, quarter-century milestones are to be celebrated.

The Paupiyala Tjarutja Aboriginal Corporation is celebrating its 25th anniversary of incorporation this year.

Founded by the Spinifex people, the community organisation is based in Tjuntjuntjara, 700km east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

The Spinifex people had a long road to establishing this remote community.

They were initially moved to the Cunderlee Mission by the Australian Government in the 1950s to make way for British atomic bomb tests at Maralinga.

They were to move again when the Government bought Coonana, 120km east of Kalgoorlie, in the 1980s.

Instead of settling in this new town, a group opted to return to their homeland.

Since then, the community has seen the establishment of PTAC and the growth of successful programs in Tjuntjuntjara. These include a health service and dental program, social and emotional wellbeing programs, a youth program and the Women's Centre, which has produced traditional art exhibited around the State.

Figures compiled by Outback Stores, a company which operates retail stores in remote indigenous communities, show spending on fruit and vegetables in Tjuntjuntjara is twice that of 33 other indigenous communities.

This could also explain data from the Spinifex Health Service which shows the rates of overweight and obesity in the community are lower than the national average for indigenous people.

There is also a high rate of screening for conditions such as trachoma and middle ear infection, and vaccination rates are above the national average.

PTAC general manager Fiona Pemberton said the groundwork was laid by a strong support of cultural matters in the community.

"I think a lot of the credit has to go to the leaders, the elders in the community," she said.

"There's some very key, very strong elders who have been the driving force behind a lot of the good work.

"We also have a wonderful group of staff, who have to be given an enormous amount of credit for their hard work and dedication."

Tjuntjuntjara is also home to the Remote Community School, which was founded by the community in 1997 with profits from the local store.

Principal Wilbur Klein said the school had developed innovative programs.

One of those, a language preservation project to produce 10 short films in the Pitjantjatjara dialect, has just received $26,000 in funding from the Federal Government.

"The beauty of Tjuntjuntjara is kids still come with English as a second language," Mr Klein said.

"If you hear the kids in the playground, especially outside of school, there's not a lot of English spoken."

Ms Pemberton said the community had come a long way in the last quarter of a century.

"To think that 25 years ago the mob was sitting on the Nullarbor plain, absolutely insistent they were going to come back out and live on country," she said.

"If you look back now in terms of what we've got at Tjuntjuntjara, it's amazing."

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