Tennant Creek Overland Telegraph staff
Tennant Creek was an Overland Telegraph Repeater Station in the 1870s but the town called Tennant Creek today did not come into being until the 1930s – and it was linked to the discovery of gold. The area around Tennant Creek was considered to be some of the richest gold bearing fields in the world and the economic reality of the Great Depression meant that men flocked to the region in Australia’s last great gold rush.
In the postwar period larger mining corporations moved into the town and found other minerals in addition to gold. By the 1970s shares in companies with interests in Tennant with names such as Poseidon, Peko and Normandy traded briskly. For much of the time, though, Tennant Creek claims were pegged by individuals and mates who banded together, living out bush under rough conditions, heat, flies and with very little water. They were called by the local name: ‘Gougers’ because, for the most part, they had to extract the gold bearing ores from solid rock.
The history of race relations on the field is shown today in the Tennant Creek museum at the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre: We are Warumungu and we are still here. In the Great Depression, the federal government saw development of the rich gold fields of Tennant Creek by miners as a national priority that left little room for prior claims to the land. The Aboriginal people of the region, the Warumungu, were removed from their country and prohibited from entering the town. Their voice in this section is heard in the silence.