Since time immemorial, Alice Springs and much of Central Australia has been the homeland of the Arrernte Aboriginal people. Mparntwe (pronounced mbarn-twa) is the Arrernte word for Alice Springs and was created by the actions of several ancestral figures including the caterpillar beings Ayepe-arenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye, the MacDonnell Ranges being but one of their creations. Creation stories also describe traditional links with areas as far afield as Urlatherrke (Mt Zeil) in the West MacDonnell Ranges and Port Augusta in South Australia. Arrernte people continue to live in Mparntwe, observe traditional Law, look after the country, and teach children the Arrernte language and the importance of their culture.
In 1862 explorer John McDouall Stuart led an expedition (his third and final attempt) through the Centre, to the north coast, navigating and mapping the country for white settlement. As arguably Australia‚??s pre-eminent explorer, the Stuart Highway honours his remarkable feats of exploration and leadership.
Following in Stuart's footsteps, the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin was completed in 1872 and made it viable for pastoralists to take up leases in the Centre. However, it was the discovery of alluvial gold at Arltunga, some 100 kms east of Alice Springs, in 1887 that provided a population boom for the Centre.
Afghan Cameleers forged their place in Central Australian history, driving their camel trains 600 km across the desert to deliver essential provisions from the railhead at Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. "Their contribution to the opening up and accessibility of the great mass of inland Australia was enormous and vital. The very backbone of Australia's economy, the traditional spheres of pastoralism and mining, owe an immense historical debt to the cameleers and their camels." (Tin Mosques and Ghantowns ‚?? Christine Stevens 1989.)
By 1929 the railway line linking Alice Springs with Adelaide was completed and mechanised trains replaced camel trains. Motor and air transport to the Centre grew more frequent and reliable, as Alice Springs overcame its isolation.
Until the early 1930s, the town's official name was Stuart. Alice Springs was the name given to the Telegraph Station, the site of original white settlement in Central Australia. However, this dual naming created such confusion for administrators in Adelaide that on 31 August 1933 the township of Stuart was officially gazetted Alice Springs.
Central Australia lies not only in the heart of Australia, it lies in the hearts of Australians. In its heart lies one of the most significant icons of Aboriginal and Australian culture ‚?? Uluru/Kata Tjuta, and the true Outback spirit that made this country great.
Whether you're a born-and-bred Australian or visitor from abroad, touring The Centre gives you an appreciation of the vast and unspoiled wonders of Australia's interior.
Nature overwhelms you in The Centre. The skyscrapers are made of rock, not steel, and one of the best shows in town is the spectacular million-star night-time display. Its arid environment is home to a large population of unique animals, birds and reptiles. Wallabies, dingoes, emus, tiny geckos and huge eagles are just some of the long-established locals you're likely to encounter during your journey around The Centre.
The Aboriginal presence here is strong. Their cultural and spiritual connection to this region echoes in every rock and landmark and provides numerous opportunities for the visitor to learn of the ways in which the Aborigines of Central Australia have adapted to this harsh, yet fragile environment.
ALICE SPRINGS‚?¶or to locals, simply "The Alice"
The town of Alice Springs started its development when 19th century pioneers opened up the Australian interior for settlement. Since their arrival, and the immortalisation of the town by Nevil Shute in his classic novel "A Town Like Alice", Alice Springs has evolved into a modern Outback town with all the creature comforts of a capital city. It is the hub of Central Australia and a perfect base from which to explore the region.
To do Central Australia, and yourself, justice you'll need 7 to 10 days to explore the region thoroughly. But even if you can only spare three or four days to see the highlights, you'll have a fantastic time. Be warned though, it will leave you wanting to come back again.
TRANSPORT‚?¶and the end of isolation!
When the railway finally reached Alice Springs from Oodnadatta in 1929 it was heralded as the end to the town‚??s isolation. To that point those hardy souls with reason for going to "the Alice" had to endure three days on the train from Adelaide to Oodnadatta, and then almost three weeks in a horse drawn wagon before reaching Alice Springs.