Mardudjara - Orientation



Identification. The Mardu Aborigines are part of the Western Desert cultural bloc, which encompasses one-sixth of the continent of Australia, and is notable for its social, cultural and linguistic homogeneity. "Mardu," meaning "man" or "person," was coined as a collective label because there was no such traditional term. Constituent dialect-name groupings include the Gardujarra, Manyjilyjarra, Gurajarra, Giyajarra, and Budijarra.

Location. The territories of the Mardu straddle the Tropic of Capricorn between 122° and 125° E in one of the world's harshest environments. Rainfall, the crucial ecological variable, is very low and highly unpredictable. Permanent waters are rare, and both daily and seasonal temperature ranges are high (-4° C to over 54° C). Major landforms include: Parallel, red-colored sand ridges with flat interdunal corridors; stony and sandy plains (covered in spinifex); rugged hilly areas with narrow gorges; and acacia scrub thickets and creek beds lined with large eucalyptus trees. Animal life includes kangaroos, emus, lizards, birds, insects, and grubs, which Together with grass seeds, tubers, berries, fruits, and nectars formed the basis of the traditional Aboriginal diet.

Demography. It is impossible accurately to estimate the precontact populations here termed Mardu. They were Scattered in small bands (fifteen to twenty-five people) most of the time, and population densities were very low: about 1 Person per 91 square kilometers. Today there are about 1,000 Mardu, most of whom live either in the settlement of Jigalong or in a number of small outstation communities that have been established in the desert homelands within the past decade. Both the general population size and the ratio of Children to adults have grown greatly since migration from the desert.

linguistic Affiliation. All Mardu groups speak mutually intelligible dialects of the Western Desert language, the single-biggest language in Australia. There are currently Several thousand speakers of this language.

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