Mbantua Foundation - Antwengerrp Outstation

Mbantua Foundation - Antwengerrp Outstation

Posted by Tim Jennings on 2023 Mar 08th

Some of our independent aboriginal artists that live in the arid Utopia Lands of the Northern Territory live in what we call humpies (shelters). Many have lived all their lives in humpies because their parents and ancestors did too! As a nomadic race they regularly moved and built shelters mainly from trees and branches at places along their travels. At Atnwengerrp (pronounced phonetically as 'A-noong-a-pa') Outstation, some 270 kilometres North East of Alice Springs there are a number of government built houses plus one very large humpy where quite a few artists live. This includes three lovely old ladies - Molly, Geyla and Emily Pwerle - plus the Hunter sisters to name a few others. Nearby there are some other smaller humpies too and they have one solitary water tap for all to use! This had concerned me for quite some time for various reasons and this family didn't look like moving on as they used to in time past.

Molly Pwerle painting inside her humpy

An ablution block comprising toilets, showers and washing facilities was really needed!

So back in March 2021 I went to see a good friend in government and asked if such an ablution block could be built and offered to donate $40,000 from our Mbantua Foundation if such a facility could be built. My friend pointed out that some 300/400 metres from the humpy there was such a structure but the reality is that was too far for these old ladies - Molly struggles to walk 4 metres! And in the summer months where the temperature regularly gets to over 40°C the ground is so hot that even life hardened bare feet burn!!

We subsequently organised a meeting with two other government people and the huge costs were certainly discussed along with other matters. And I fully understand the cost factor - there is only so much in the budget and housing is so expensive due to remoteness.

I later spoke to Barbara Weir and her youngest daughter Charmaine Pwerle re: me wanting to have a shower/laundry/toilet block built next to the humpy. They told me to have a chat with Teresa Purla, Barbara's oldest daughter. I know Teresa well, so we caught up. Teresa told me that she had been talking to politicians and "you name it" for the last year or two, in an effort to get accommodation built for the old ladies and Hunter sisters. We had a lengthy conversation and I told her of the $40,000 Mbantua would commit and so we then devised a simple plan - Teresa would continue her 'terrier dog' approach but could now use the $40K commitment to the project as a form of ammunition.

And it wasn't long before she let me know that she had a commitment from the authorities saying the project was a go!!

In March 2022, a year after I first began my approaches to government agencies, I received phone calls and email from the Project Manager Phillip Jackson of Territory Families, Housing and Community confirming what Teresa had told me - the structure was in fact going to be two living shelters with veranda's as well as a multi-user ablution (toilets, showers and laundry).

Teresa had been relentless and did a fantastic job with this. She was a regular watching it being constructed and, of course, never let a chance go by without suggesting to the builders for some nice extra's!!!

The building was finally finished in October 2022 and many moved in the week after.

1) Teresa standing in front of the finished building with the humpies on the right 2) New ablution block

However, Molly chose to stay in her humpy!! (she's well into her 90's and didn't want to move I am told.)

They now all have a choice as to where they may like to lay their head down to sleep. And whether they have clean clothes or a daily shower to feel clean and refreshed.

Take care,


PS Teresa is also a very good painter!! Very methodical and takes her time.

CTP5003 by Terese Purla


'My Grandmother's Country'

Teresa holding a 30x30cm painting she had just finished.