At its peak the town was home to the biggest gold mine in Western Australia. Today, Wiluna is chiefly a Martu Indigenous community. It has an active administrative centre and offers day trips and walks to various lookouts and historic attractions.
Any history of Wiluna has two threads, European that started with Surveyor Lawrence Wells in 1892 and the infinitely longer story of the Martu people. In 1896 gold was discovered, but Wiluna did not peak until the advent of new mining technologies in the 1930’s. From a population of 600 it quickly boomed to an excess of 9,000 people.
Unfortunately, the boom times only lasted ‘til the mid 1940’s and by 1963 the town was down to 90 persons. Since that time it has increased again, mainly due to the growing number of Martu people coming in from their traditional country.
Wiluna Walk Trails
The very best way to explore the heritage of Wiluna. Pick up a brochure from the Shire office, post office or shop and take a stroll around one of these new, fascinating, well sign posted and informative walks
Things to see and do in Wiluna town
- Tjurkurba Art Gallery - see the display of historic photos and unique paintings by Wiluna’s Aboriginal Martu artists who frequent the Gallery workshop, producing high quality paintings for sale.
- Check out the Last of the Nomads statue, the town’s tribute to Warri (1909-1979) and Yatungka (1917-1979), believed to be the last desert nomads leading a traditional lifestyle. See Indigenous history for details.
- Take a walk around the graceful Old Hospital (now Shire offices) birthplace of many local Martu people - and former Governor-General, Major General Micheal Jeffery.
- Red Hill Lookout. Just 1200 metres south of the town this rocky rise gives wonderful views over Wiluna across to the gold mine.
- Head out to the Clay Pans. After rains, these fill with water and are great for windsurfing, canoeing, bird watching and picnics.
- View the grave sites in the Pioneer Cemetery, dated from 1893 to 1903.
Wiluna honours the Last of the Nomads
Warri (1909-1979) and Yatungka (1917-1979) were believed to be the last of the Mandildjara tribe and were perhaps Australia’s last desert nomads leading the traditional Indigenous lifestyle. Long after the Mandildjara people (known also as Martu) had gravitated to urban settlements this couple survived for decades on their own, hunting and eating native fruits.
Warri and Yatungka met in the 1930’s and fell in love, but Indigenous tribal law forbade them from marrying. So to avoid severe physical punishment or even death, the star-crossed lovers ran away together in the middle of the night. Living in isolation, the couple had three children – only two of which survived in the harsh outback conditions.
Despite Warri and Yatungka’s defiance and departure, the Mandildjara elders constantly worried about their welfare. When a severe drought hit the region in 1977, local Indigenous elder, Mudjon, and white explorer, Stan Gratte, set out to find “the last of the nomads”. After several weeks they were found, close to starvation in the Gibson Desert, and brought back to Wiluna. The Indigenous elders forgave Warri and Yatungka, and they remained in Wiluna until 1979, when they passed away within weeks of each other. Their deaths marked the end of an Indigenous lifestyle that stretched back more than 40,000 years. A statue commemorating the Last of the Nomads is located at the town’s entrance.
- Just outside the town and 13 kms down the Gunbarrel Highway, is Gunbarrel Laager offering donga-type accommodation with shared kitchen and ablutions around in a pleasant greased area.
- Unofficial camping at North Pool (10km North on Neds Creek Rd and then 10km west on North Pool Rd).
- 90 kilometres to the east, a historic cattle station provides basic camping facilities at Lorna Glen Reserve.
- Carnegie Station 353 kms east on the Gunbarrel Highway provides self catering donga-type accommodation and fuel.
For more information, please contact the Wiluna Visitor Centre by emailing email@example.com or phone (08) 9980 6020.