RDA Northern TerritoryCommunity profile

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Central Desert Regional Council LGA

About the profile areas

The 2016 Estimated Resident Population for Central Desert Regional Council LGA is 4,222, with a population density of 0.00 persons per hectare.

Location and boundaries

The Central Desert Regional Council area is located in the central southern section of the Northern Territory, between 600 and 1,400 kilometres south of the Darwin CBD. The Central Desert Regional Council area is bounded by the Victoria Daly Regional Council area and the Barkly Regional Council area in the north, the State of Queensland in the east, the MacDonnell Regional Council area in the south, and the State of Western Australia in the west.

Name origin

Central Desert Regional Council is named to describe its location and geography; in the central part of Australia and encompassing the Tanami Desert.

Settlement history

Traditionally, indigenous people lived in the area, and continue to do so, mainly in small communities. European settlement dates from the 1880s, although the area was explored in the early 1860s. Land was used mainly for pastoral purposes. Some growth took place during the late 1800s, spurred by the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line in 1872, and mining around Arltunga from 1887 and Harts Range from the 1890s. Gold mining continues today at Tanami. The population of the Council area increased during the early 1990s, rising from about 4,000 in 1991 to nearly 5,000 in 1996. The population then gradually declined, falling to about 4,100 in 2011.

Land use

The Central Desert Regional Council area is predominantly rural, with small townships at Lajamanu, Ti Tree, Willowra and Yuendumu, and numerous small indigenous communities. More than two-thirds of the population are Aboriginal. Rural land is used largely for cattle grazing and fruit and vegetable growing, with mining also being an important industry. The Council area encompasses a total land area of about 282,000 square kilometres.


The Central Desert Regional Council area is served by the Stuart Highway, the Plenty Highway and the Sandover Highway.

Major features

Major features of the Council area include the Tanami Desert, Arltunga Historical Reserve, Dulcie Range National Park, Trephina Gorge Nature Park, Anna’s Reservoir Conservation Reserve, Nature Gap Conservation Reserve, Lake Mackay, Warlukurlangu Artists of Yuendumu, Warnayaka Art Centre, Red Sand Art Gallery and Granites Gold Mine.

Indigenous background

The original inhabitants of the Central Desert Regional Council area were the Anmatjere, Arrernte and Warlpiri Aboriginal people.

Included areas

The Central Desert Regional Council area includes the localities and communities of Anatye, Anmatjere (part), Atitjere, Chilla Well, Engawala, Gurindji, Hart, Lajamanu (part), Lake Mackay, Laramba, Nyirripi, Sandover (part), Tanami, Ti Tree, Willowra, Wilora, Yuelamu and Yuendumu.


Much of this area is Aboriginal freehold land held by the Central Land Council.