Colin Tjapiya, Ushma Scales and Peter Nyaningu the beginning of the project, 1994. Ron Lister working in the Netley office in Adelaide. John Dallwitz examining Anangu footage for archive. John and Dora Dallwitz at Neltley office, Adelaide 2018

During the 1980s, the seeds for Ara Irititja were planted in the minds of Anangu and a few people working with Anangu. School teacher Ron Lister spent a year locating photos and archival records and contacting former missionaries and others with historical collections. Slowly, the idea began to grow in different ways and a combination of events drew everyone together.

In 1994 Anangu elders, Peter Nyaningu and Colin Tjapiya, and Pitjantjatjara Council anthropologist Ushma Scales came together with archival consultant John Dallwitz, agreed upon a name for what they were trying to do, and sought funding. Ara Irititja was born—a social history project of the Pitjantjatjara Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Ara Irititja works collaboratively with many Aboriginal organisations on the vast Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands of the far north west South Australia. These include all Anangu schools and tertiary education centres, Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council, Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) Services, AP Land Council, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Land Management, PY Media, Nganampa Health Council, APY Art Centre Collective and community art centres. Many of these organisations give access to Ara Irititja.

The main Ara Irititja office is in Adelaide, South Australia in facilities provided by the South Australian Museum as in-kind support. From 2008 – 2020, the SA Museum took on a greater role in its support of the project. With on-going funding from the State Government of South Australia, a full-time position for Ara Irititja was created within the Museum staff. Work on the central database of the digital archive (the mothership), the majority of digital item preparation, the physical storage of many tens of thousands of historical and cultural items, and administration of the project is carried out there. John Dallwitz manages the overall project from Adelaide. Dora Dallwitz works with John overseeing all the multi-media digitising, adding it to the archive and managing archival materials. There is also an office in Alice Springs in which Linda Rive liaises with NPY organisations and has regular contact with Anangu, working with them, adding data, family genealogies and language material.

In 2020 Ara Irititja came under the umbrella of Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) and its Executive Board guides the project. Douglas Mann of Rightside Response manages the Keeping Culture KMS.


The Ara Irititja project is a strong growing project which

  • collects and preserves for perpetuity historical, traditional and contemporary Anangu material and stories
  • supports, through the use of the database, the maintenance of Anangu culture and language
  • delivers back to Anangu via an interactive multi-media archive the historical material that would otherwise be inaccessible to them
  • sustains the long-term management of, and access to, this historical material for Anangu

Mission Statement

The Ara Irititja project works to accommodate Anangu wishes for the delivery of regularly updated, high quality interactive multi-media databases, in Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara,Yankunytjatjara language and English, onto their communities. The project is dedicated to maintain regular Anangu access to the database and is accountable to Anangu in its management and delivery of this historical material.

Core Values

The activities of the Ara Irititja project will be clearly guided and distinguishable by the following values:

  • Accountability to Anangu.
  • Sensitivity to the language, cultural issues and protocols of Anangu.
  • High quality and state-of-the-art database technology.
  • Archivally sound best practices for the ongoing preservation of traditional and contemporary knowledge and materials owned by Anangu.
  • Commitment to the growth and sustainability of an interactive multi-media archive database.
  • Provision of access, through the delivery and maintenance of databases, printers and projectors onto Anangu communities.

Goals and Objectives

GOAL 1 A high quality, growing, interactive multi-media archive for Anangu

• Objective 1.1 – Collection and recording of historical, traditional and contemporary photographs, audio recordings, movies, documents, artefacts, stories and events for the preservation of Anangu language, culture and identity
• Objective 1.2 – Processing and digitisation of historical, traditional and contemporary photographs, audio recordings, movies, documents, artefacts, stories and events
• Objective 1.3 – A computer software program and interface designed to maintain IT best practices and to accommodate the wishes and cultural imperatives of Anangu
• Objective 1.4 – Effective articulation and communication of Ara Irititja project’s policies and best practice

GOAL 2 An Anangu population empowered and informed about the Ara Irititja project
• Objective 2.1 – Effective use of the archive for the preservation of NPY languages, culture and identity
• Objective 2.2 – Anangu trained in the skills required for the use, development and maintenance of the archive
• Objective 2.3 – Anangu employed when and wherever possible

GOAL 3 Access for Anangu to the Ara Irititja project
• Objective 3.1 – Delivery to Anangu communities, by way of the internet, Interactive multi-media archives, that include historical, traditional and contemporary materials, stories and Indigenous knowledge

GOAL 4 Physical and digital historical materials, conserved and stored in archival conditions
• Objective 4.1 – Original physical and digital materials that are archivally managed and protected

GOAL 5 The continued success of the Ara Irititja project
• Objective 5.1 – A project that is financially secure and sustainable
• Objective 5.2 – A project that is administratively secure and sustainable