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Gwoja Jungarrayi (c. 1895–1965)

by Jillian Barnes

This article was published:

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Gwoja Jungarrayi, by Roy Dunstan, 1935

Gwoja Jungarrayi, by Roy Dunstan, 1935

State Library of New South Wales

Gwoja Jungarrayi (c. 1895–1965), urrempel (ceremony) man, entrepreneur, and iconic figure, also known as One Pound Jimmy, was a Ngalia (southern) Warlpiri–Anmatyerr man with Arrernte ancestry on his mother’s side. He was born in the mid-1890s near a culturally important rock hole in the Yarrunkanyi region around Lurnpakurlangu (Mount Doreen), Northern Territory. His probable conception site at nearby Inalukula was, according to Jungarrayi, a day’s walk from the original Mount Doreen station homestead. Fellow tribesmen and women called him Gwoja (Kwatye), an Arandic transliteration for rain/water, which was also his totem. His Warlpiri–Anmatyerr Country lay across the arid/semi-arid southern Tanami Desert region of north-west central Australia. Through his patriline he would become kirda (owner) of a set of sites and Jukurrpa (Dreaming) tracks, and through his matriline he would become kurdungurlu (guardian) of others. These obligations incorporated him into a richly interwoven system of land trusteeship, management, and ceremonial performances associated with historical or mythological events and creative travels by totemic ancestors, and bound him to wider Indigenous networks, people, and Country across the central desert.

A succession of severe and protracted droughts during the early twentieth century forced Warlpiri to migrate east. During this period pastoralists leased vast runs on Anmatyerr Country, developing herds that depleted scarce water supplies and native vegetation and drove native game away. Jungarrayi commenced his working life as a stock worker on Hamilton Downs station, one of the earliest registered pastoral properties in central Australia, sometime after 1910; his parents and sister, Jeannie Gwoja Nungarrayi (c. 1900–c. 1970), may also have lived and worked there.

Warlpiri and Anmatyerr had long gathered near permanent soakages in the Coniston area, which they called Mamp. The killing of a white dingo trapper, Frederick Brooks, on Coniston station in 1928 by Jungarrayi’s kinsman triggered a series of murderous reprisals—the last recorded, government-sanctioned, mass killing of Aboriginal people in Australia—led by Mounted Constable William George Murray, known as the Coniston massacre. Many of Jungarrayi’s extended family were killed, a fate narrowly avoided by Jungarrayi who manoeuvred himself ‘among the dead and dying’ amid ‘a hail of rifle fire’ (Wauchope 1965, 1). Captured and chained to a tree by Murray, he escaped and fled to the Arltunga region east of Alice Springs. Later, when Murray identified Jungarrayi as an escaped prisoner, Alyawarr and Arrernte people claimed him as one of their own to prevent further punitive action.

From the late 1920s Jungarrayi was valued as an employee in three fledgling central Australian industries: mining, pastoralism, and tourism. After several years mining gold and mica at Arltunga and in the eastern Harts Range, he moved back to the pastoral industry, working as a stockman and station-hand at Ambalindum station in eastern Arrernte Country. Expanding his knowledge and competency in station life, he developed skills in branding, droving, shearing, tending stock, and sinking wells. After 1933, when legislation was introduced in the Northern Territory stipulating a minimum wage for Aboriginal pastoral workers, he would have received between five shillings and one pound per week, as well as flour, tea, sugar, and occasional pieces of butchered stock.

During this time Jungarrayi continued to participate in ceremonial and other gatherings on nearby Arletherre (Hale River) with Arrernte ritual leaders, including fully initiated rain men. The opportunity to learn from older Arrernte men such as Woritarinja (also known as Jim Utjeba, Goggle Eye, and Jim Doolan), Tim Kolbarinja, Cowell Bob (also known as Arkilyarinja), Jack Rara, and Tjeria Ljeraritjinaka would later enhance his status within Anmatyerr and Warlpiri society.

In 1935 the linguist and ethnologist T. G. H. Strehlow established a field camp adjacent to Arletherre to record ceremonies, totemic acts, and song verses. Jungarrayi’s participation in this research marked the beginning of his engagement with European researchers and coincided with the commencement of his role as an urrempel man. He saw Arrernte ritual leaders, concerned about dispossession, acculturation, and tourist souveniring, give their venerated ceremonial objects to Strehlow for safekeeping. Decades later, as the harsh edges of the colonial frontier impacted on Warlpiri Country, he would likewise hand ceremonial objects to the ethnologist Charles Mountford. Given Western science’s fascination with a so-called dying race, other pressures and motivations may also have been involved.

A tourism scouting party arrived at Arletherre in July 1935 in search of spectacular images, but Arrernte ritual leaders refused to paint themselves with pipeclay, pose naked, and perform for them. To conciliate the potentially volatile situation, Jungarrayi, bearded and wearing a headband, posed for a photograph that would become deeply embedded in the Australian consciousness, influencing expectations of what Aboriginal men looked like. First appearing in the January 1936 issue of Walkabout, the magazine of the Australian National Travel Association (ANTA), the image was used to sell outback tourism to domestic and international markets for the next twenty years. Soon after this encounter, Strehlow used the name ‘One Pound Jimmy’ to describe Jungarrayi, suggesting that Jungarrayi may have negotiated a cash payment (and notably one at the highest end of the scale for Aboriginal pastoral workers) rather than accept the more usual offer of tobacco. Subsequently, Jungarrayi used the name One Pound Jimmy to identify himself.

In 1937 a government ration depot and reserve was established at Iwupataka (Jay Creek) adjacent to Hamilton Downs station and Strehlow was stationed there as a patrol officer. Tourists now passed through Iwupataka en route to Hermannsburg (Ntaria), a Lutheran mission. Having learned to tend camels on Ambalindum, Jungarrayi created a niche there as a highly knowledgeable guide. As a further sign of his entrepreneurial spirit, he carved and sold wooden artefacts to tourists.

Less fearful now of frontier violence, Jungarrayi returned to Warlpiri–Anmatyerr Country in the late 1930s, working first at Hamilton Downs station before joining an extended family group on Napperby station and marrying recently widowed Rosie Nangala, also known as Long Rose Ai-iri Nangala (c. 1910–c. 1978). Rosie’s biological children, Immanuel Rutjinana Tjapaltjarri (c. 1929–c. 1985), Clifford Upamburra Possum Tjapaltjarri (c. 1932–2002), and Lily Napaltjarri (c. 1937–?), and her adopted children, some of whom were orphans, Bruce Leura Tjapaltjarri (1925–?), Billy Stockman Tjapaltjarri (1927–2015), and Tim Leura Tjapaltjarri (1932–1984), became Jungarrayi’s children.

Jungarrayi and his new family were able to attain a measure of autonomy and mobility denied to most other Aboriginal people at the time. The owner of a camel and donkey team, Jungarrayi chose to continue working as a stockman and station-hand rather than live in newly established Aboriginal reserves and settlements. After World War II he worked for the medical and mail-run aviator and businessman Edward Connellan on Narwietooma station. In the late 1940s he assisted the pastoralist William Waudby to establish Central Mount Wedge station. He got along well with his employer and co-workers and chose to stay there during the 1950s and 1960s, its location between Warlpiri and Anmatyerr lands affording him unhindered access to his ancestral estate.

On 14 August 1950 Australian postal authorities released a stamp featuring a stylised image of Jungarrayi based on the 1936 Walkabout photograph. It would be in circulation for the next sixteen years, resulting in the worldwide dissemination of ninety-nine million portraits. Prompted by international interest regarding his identity, ANTA launched a nationwide search for him in September. Suspecting trouble, Jungarrayi shaved off his beard and went bush with Rosie and their family. Eventually, with assistance from Woritarinja and other Arrernte men, native affairs officials found him. Later, after receiving ‘thousands of letters from autograph hunters the world over’ (Smithsonian National Postal Museum), Jungarrayi and Waudby established an autograph enterprise. Waudby purchased inked stamp pads for Jungarrayi to mass-produce his signature and together they wrote letters to fans in return for one pound apiece.

Whereas Jungarrayi was able to negotiate a degree of economic autonomy through the commodification of his image and culture, other Aboriginal men inadvertently became entrapped in the stereotype it created, with tourists asking them to take off their clothes and pose and act like an ‘authentic tribal Aborigine’ (Allam 2010)—just like One Pound Jimmy.

A working family man during the cattle season, a tribal lawman and custodian who fulfilled his ritual obligations during the off-season, and a cultural intermediary, Jungarrayi led a complex and full life. Increasingly driven by the desire to pass on to younger generations his desert culture, and also to preserve it in new forms, he collaborated with visiting social scientists, ethnologists, and artists such as William Harney, Charles Mountford, and Bertram Ainslie Roberts, guiding, demonstrating, sketching, and sharing his ancestral knowledge. He told his children about his daily travels around the evening campfire and occasionally took them with him. In this way his job as a guide—a ‘show’m round countries’ (Clifford Possum, quoted in Johnson 2003, 35)—enabled him to pass on his knowledge of Law and Country, and demonstrate to his children how they could earn a living from their cultural knowledge.

As a senior knowledge holder of the Jukurrpa, Jungarrayi participated in rainmaking rituals and chanted songs to release the life essence of rain at Karrinyarra, a major sacred site and rain/water region. Proud and fiercely independent, he continually adapted to change, overcame vast cultural barriers, and took advantage of new opportunities afforded by colonisation. He was laconic and humorous, gentle, obliging, and courteous. Survived by his wife and children, he died of old age on Arrernte Country at Narwietooma on 28 March 1965 and was buried there later that day according to Warlpiri and Anmatyerr custom.

Jungarrayi’s role as the face of Indigenous Australia continued after his death. In 1973 Roberts and Mountford used a stylised portrait of him performing a rainmaking ritual on the cover of their Dreamtime Book. Featuring illustrated Aboriginal ‘myths and legends,’ many based on Jungarrayi’s creation stories, the book became a major publishing success. A drawing of Jungarrayi by Roberts, made shortly before he died, inspired the archetypal image of an Aboriginal elder used by the Royal Australian Mint on the $2 coin, first released in 1988; by 2023, more than nine hundred million copies had been minted. In 2004 the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies digitised back issues of Dawn, the magazine of the New South Wales Aborigines Welfare Board, which had featured an image of Jungarrayi on its masthead until 1962. The reproduction of this famous image effectively reinstated Jungarrayi’s identity and story, transforming him from an objectified symbol of assimilation for Aboriginal people into an icon of self-determination, pride, and cultural survival.

Clifford Possum, Tim Leura, and Billy Stockman, Jungarrayi’s sons, were founding members of the Papunya Tula Artists cooperative that helped to launch the Western Desert art movement credited with bringing contemporary Aboriginal art to the world stage. Their distinctive artistic style, popularly known as dot painting, drew heavily on the ancestral knowledge of Country and Law passed down to them by Jungarrayi. His transmission of ancestral knowledge also played a crucial role in Warlpiri-Anmatyerr attaining native title to Central Mount Wedge in 1999. Drawings, artworks, and objects that Jungarrayi gave to Mountford for safekeeping were repatriated to a keeping place at Yuendumu in 2021. The electoral division of Gwoja in the Northern Territory is named for him.


Historian Jillian Barnes worked closely with descendants of Jungarrayi’s extended family, his Warlpiri-Anmatyerr kin, and the Warlpiri Media Aboriginal Corporation in Yuendumu to produce this entry.

Select Bibliography

  • Allam, Lorena. ‘The Two Lives of One Pound Jimmy.’ Hindsight, ABC Radio. Broadcast 7 November 2010.
  • Barnes, Jillian. ‘Resisting the Captured Image: How Gwoja Tjungurrayi, “One Pound Jimmy,” Escaped the “Stone Age.”’ In Transgressions: Critical Australian Indigenous Histories, edited by Ingereth Macfarlene and Mark Hannah, 83–134. Canberra: Aboriginal History Inc. and ANU Press, 2007
  • Gibson, Jason. Ceremony Men: Making Ethnography and the Return of the Strehlow Collection. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2020
  • Johnson, Vivien. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 2003. Exhibition catalogue
  • Loos, Michael. ‘Gwoja Tjungurrayi (One Pound Jimmy).’ In Northern Territory Dictionary of Biography, edited by David Carment, Christine Edward, Barbara James, Robyn Maynard, Alan Powell, and Helen J. Wilson, 583. Darwin: Charles Darwin University Press, 2008
  • Roberts, Ainslie, and Charles Mountford. The Dreamtime Book. Adelaide: Rigby, 1973
  • Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Press clippings, photographs, and correspondence. Malcolm Macgregor Collection of Autographed Stamps
  • Strehlow, T. G. H. Diary: Central Australia, book vii, 1935. The Strehlow Research Centre
  • Sydney Morning Herald. ‘One Pound Jimmy Dies on Walkabout.’ 28 April 1965, 1
  • Wauchope, Alan. ‘“One Pound Jimmy” Joins Immortals.’ Centralian Advocate (Alice Springs), 13 May 1965, 1.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jillian Barnes, 'Jungarrayi, Gwoja (c. 1895–1965)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 July 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012

Gwoja Jungarrayi, by Roy Dunstan, 1935

Gwoja Jungarrayi, by Roy Dunstan, 1935

State Library of New South Wales

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Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • One Pound Jimmy
  • Jungarai , Gwoya
  • Kwatye

c. 1895
Northern Territory, Australia


28 March, 1965 (aged ~ 70)
Narwietooma station, Northern Territory, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.