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Written by Jamie Hampton, Indigenous Collections Officer and Warlpiri Man.

On Wednesday 19 May a group of six Senior Warlpiri men from the remote community of Yuendumu visited the State Library. This was the first time the men had ever visited the library. It was an emotional but exciting visit for the men, viewing their own cultural heritage material at the library, viewing crayon drawings by their uncles, fathers and grandfathers, while also viewing photos of loved ones.

Throughout the visit the men expressed how grateful they were for the good condition of their materials, showing the important role the State Library has in preserving Aboriginal culture and materials. Being the first ever visit, the men were in awe of what the library holds, expressing the importance of now using the library’s collection to pass on important knowledge and stories relating to the Warlpiri tribe.

At the end of the visit the men gathered in the Mortlock Chamber for a photo. At the time we didn't know how well the photo would turn out and the story it would tell… the men simply posed as if they were still at Yuendumu in their home environment.

Walpiri Elders visiting the State Library, location Mortlock Library. Photographer Toby Woolley

Warlpiri Elders visiting the State Library, location in the Mortlock Chamber. From L-R: John Carty (SA Museum), Jamie Hampton (State Library), Warren Japanangka Williams, Simon Japangardi Fisher, Ned Jampitjinpa Hargraves, Tommy Jangala Watson, Francis Jupurrula Kelly, Karl Japaltjarri Hampton. Photograph by Toby Woolley.

When looking at the photo now it really tells an amazing story. We have a group of Senior men from the desert who within their own culture are considered ‘libraries’ holding knowledge and wisdom which some people can only dream of possessing. We then have them standing in the Mortlock Chamber which holds over 137 years of knowledge and containing over 23,000 books. It is a mixture of knowledge and wisdom never seen before.

The State Library is excited about working with the Warlpiri men and community over the coming years, particularly on what we can achieve in terms of repatriation and knowledge building with the Warlpiri community.