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Tjampijinpa, ‘Stumpy’ Martin (1932–1986)

by Petronella Vaarzon-Morel

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

‘Stumpy’ Martin Tjampijinpa (Jampijinpa) (c.1932-1986), Aboriginal stockman and land-rights campaigner, was born about 1932 in the country of his ancestors, Pawu (Mount Barkly), near Willowra on the Lander River, Northern Territory, eldest of four sons of ‘Fuzzy’ Jangala and his first wife Molly Nungarrayi. He belonged to the Jampijinpa subsection of the Warlpiri people. His father’s brother was killed in the 1928 Coniston massacre and his kinfolk were chased from their traditional hunting grounds. Knowledge of these events prompted his efforts to secure property rights for Aboriginal people. He had no formal education.

As a boy Stumpy swept floors and cut wood at Anningie station. He was a houseboy, cook and horse-tailer in the mustering camp and became a skilled cattleman on the neighbouring Willowra pastoral lease. Over time he helped to develop the station infrastructure and to build a house in Alice Springs for the leaseholder, Jack Parkinson. In the late 1960s Parkinson’s son, Edgar, who had come to understand the Warlpiri people’s spiritual connection to land, wanted to give the land back to the Aboriginal residents. Jampijinpa encouraged Parkinson to ask the social welfare branch of the Northern Territory Administration to buy the station for the Warlpiri. When the request was rejected, Jampijinpa moved to Alice Springs to marshal support for its purchase.

Employed as a supervisor at the Aboriginal settlement Amoonguna, then by the Alice Springs Municipal Council, Jampijinpa developed friendships with emerging Aboriginal activists. He campaigned for improved living conditions for his people, assisting those on pastoral stations to register for voting and to lobby for schools. In 1972 he joined the Interim Central Australian Aboriginal Rights Council (from 1975 the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress). On the advice of H. C. (‘Nugget’) Coombs, chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, and assisted by the Aboriginal activist Joyce Clague, Jampijinpa applied for a loan from a capital fund, set up for Aboriginal enterprises, to buy Willowra station on behalf of the local Aboriginal community. In 1973, soon after the election of the Whitlam government, the loan was granted and the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs purchased Willowra for the Lander Warlpiri people.

By 1977 Jampijinpa was Willowra’s community adviser. Believing that the education system should incorporate Aboriginal culture and language, he fought for the introduction of a bilingual school. While he was manager of the Willowra Pastoral Co., the Mount Barkly station was purchased in 1981 from the proceeds of cattle sales. Concerned about the insecure nature of leasehold title, he assisted the other traditional owners of Willowra and Mount Barkly to seek freehold title to their country under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. His evidence, given during the hearings, contributed to the success of the claims.

A member of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission (1975-80) and of the Aboriginal Development Commission (1980-86), Jampijinpa was elected in 1981 to the National Aboriginal Conference. Intelligent and charming, he communicated to a wide variety of Australians, including in the cities, the need to respect Aboriginal culture and rights. He had married two wives under customary tribal law—Molly Foster Napangardi and Sue Napangardi Martin; with the latter he had three daughters and a son. Survived by his wives and children, he died on 16 August 1986 at Willowra and was buried there.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Coombs, Trial Balance (1981) and Willowra (1993)
  • C. Dunne, People under the Skin (1988)
  • P. Vaarzon-Morel (ed), Warlpiri Women’s Voices (1995)
  • Central Australian Land Rights News, no 12, May 1980, p 7
  • Health and History, vol 9, no 2, 2007, p 114
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Petronella Vaarzon-Morel, 'Tjampijinpa, ‘Stumpy’ Martin (1932–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/tjampijinpa-stumpy-martin-15660/text26856, accessed 24 September 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012