Utopia, Northern Territory

Utopia, Northern Territory

Utopia, Northern Territory

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Utopia is an Aboriginal homeland formed in November 1978 by the amalgamation of the former Utopia pastoral lease with a tract of unalienated land to its north. It covers an area of 3500 square kilometres, transected by the Sandover River, and lies on a traditional boundary of the Alyawarra and Anmatjirra people, the two language groups which predominate there today. The name is probably a corruption of Uturupa, which means ‘big sand hill’, a region in the north west extremity of the area.<sup>1</sup> It has a number of unique elements:
  • It is one of a minority of communities created by autonomous activism in the early phase of the land rights movement. It was neither a former mission, nor a government settlement, but was successfully claimed by indigenous people who had never been fully dispossessed.
  • Its people have expressly repudiated any municipal establishment, and instead live in a score of ‘outstations’ or clan sites, each with a traditional claim to the place.
  • Its Aboriginal artists have been remarkably successful, and continue to produce distinctive works that are collected by people in Australia and all over the world.
  • A series of population health surveys (1986–2004) have shown that Utopia people are significantly healthier than comparable groups – something that has been attributed to the ‘outstation way of life’. This finding is of considerable interest to students of indigenous health. Study of the basis of this difference......
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