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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Tjungurrayi, Timothy Jugadai (1920–1988)

by R. G. Kimber

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Timothy Jugadai Tjungurrayi (c.1920-1988), Aboriginal stockman and artist, was born about 1920 in the dry Alalbi creek bed near Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, son of a Ngalia (southern Warlpiri) man and a Luritja woman. He was also known as Timothy Tjukata Jugadai, Timmy Jungarai and Timmy Tjugadai Tjungarrayi. Although he knew the important sites of Yaripilang (Yaribilong) and Kuna-tjarrai to the north-west in his father’s country, he identified most strongly with the Luritja people from the territory around Haasts Bluff, 93 miles (150 km) west of Alice Springs.

As a child Tjungurrayi lived a traditional life near Mount Liebig. During the extended severe drought, which was at its worst in 1929, his family migrated to Hermannsburg Lutheran Mission. Here Pastor F. W. Albrecht was his guiding influence. Tjungurrayi learned English and German and the basic skills in numeracy, and was christened Timothy, afterwards called Timmy. Working with horses and cattle at Hermannsburg and on Tempe Downs and Glen Helen stations, he returned after each mustering season to a traditional hunting life in the Haasts Bluff-Mount Liebig country. He sometimes assisted cameleers who travelled to Alice Springs for ration stores.

Shortly after his initiation, in about 1936 Timmy borrowed mission camels and, with his kinsfolk, travelled the well-known country to Putardi Spring; with a traditional instructor-friend he went further west, to the Ehrenberg and Kintore ranges, then southerly in a loop that brought him back by way of the Cleland Hills, the land of his grandfather. Gaining knowledge of resources and the mythologies of the country, he hunted dingoes for their scalps—an approved occupation of the era. The scalps were exchanged for rations at Hermannsburg. He also gathered large quantities of the highly prized mingulpa chewing tobacco. This was his only travel to the farthest western and southern extents of his grandfather’s territory.

In the late 1930s Tjungurrayi accompanied the Aboriginal evangelist Titus Renkaraka, riding mission donkeys or camels on evangelical patrols into the Haasts Bluff hinterland. During World War II Tjungurrayi occasionally visited Jay Creek, west of Alice Springs, but returned permanently to his ‘borning country’ around 1946, after Haasts Bluff had been established as a western outpost settlement and cattle station. In about 1945 he had tribally married Renkaraka’s daughter Bessie, an Arrernte woman from Hermannsburg. He later took two additional Pintupi wives, one of whom was Narputta Nangala.

For the next forty years Tjungurrayi was a leading stationhand on Haasts Bluff cattle station, eventually becoming head stockman in the late 1970s and station-manager in the 1980s. It is this role for which he was primarily remembered by all who knew him well. He was also, however, an expert horseman, an able horse-breaker, drover, yard-builder and well-sinker, a butcher and a worker of green hide. Involved throughout his life in traditional activities, he answered the many questions of the visitors to Haasts Bluff. In 1967 he had accompanied Robert Edwards, a rock-art specialist, on a journey to the Cleland Hills.

The adapted-traditional painting styles of the Papunya Tula artists inspired Tjungurrayi to represent his own mythological country. He started painting in the mid-1970s and depicted site mythologies for which he had responsibilities. His personal Scorpion Dreaming of the Haasts Bluff area was the theme to which he continually returned. Maintaining this interest intermittently into the 1980s, he inspired his wives and children, particularly his wife Narputta Nangala Jugadai and daughter Daisy Napaltjarri Jugadai, who, after his death, became noted artists.

In his last years Tjungurrayi reflected on the many changes in his lifetime and noted the extinction or increasing rarity of animals that had been common in his childhood. Always neatly dressed in a stockman’s oufit, with riding boots, a broad, studded leather belt, and a black stetson hat, he was widely respected as the senior leader and long-standing cattle station ‘boss’ on Haasts Bluff. Survived by Narputta Nangala and eight of his ten children, he died of heart failure on 15 October 1988 at Haasts Bluff and was buried with Lutheran forms.

Select Bibliography

  • V. Johnson, Aboriginal Artists of the Western Desert (1994)
  • M. Strocchi (ed), Ikuntji (1995)
  • M. Smith, Peopling the Cleland Hills (2005)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

R. G. Kimber, 'Tjungurrayi, Timothy Jugadai (1920–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Jugadai, Timothy Tjukata
  • Jungarai, Timmy
  • Tjungarrayi, Timmy Tjugadai

Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia


15 October 1988
Haasts Bluff, Northern Territory, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence