Tennant Creek is a town located in the
Northern Territory of
Australia. It is the fifth largest town in the
Northern Territory and
located on the Stuart Highway, just south of the intersection with the
western terminus of the Barkly Highway. At the 2016 census, Tennant
Creek had a population of approximately 3,000, of which over 50%
(1,536) identified themselves as indigenous.
The town is approximately 1,000 kilometres south of the territory
capital, Darwin, and 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs. It is
named after a nearby watercourse of the same name, and is the hub of
Barkly Tableland vast elevated plains of black soil with
golden Mitchell grass, that cover more than 240,000 square kilometres.
Tennant Creek is also near well-known attractions including the Devils
Marbles, Mary Ann Dam, Battery Hill Mining Centre and the Nyinkka
Nyunyu Culture Centre
Barkly Tableland runs east from
Tennant Creek towards the
Queensland border and is among the most important cattle grazing areas
in the Northern Territory. Roughly the same size as the United Kingdom
or New Zealand, the region consists largely of open grass plains and
some of the world’s largest cattle stations. It runs as far south as
Barrow Creek, north above Elliott and west into the Tanami Desert.
The region encompasses the junction of two great highways, the Barkly
and the Stuart, also known as the Overlander and Explorer’s Ways.
The Overlander's Way (Barkly Highway) retraces the original route of
early stockmen who drove their cattle from
Queensland through the
grazing lands in the Northern Territory.
1 Geography and climate
1.1 Topography and climate
1.2 Built environment
1.3 Parks and gardens
8 Society and culture
8.1 Leisure and entertainment
8.2 Music and Art
9 See also
11 External links
Geography and climate
Climate chart of Tennant Creek
Tennant Creek is located in the middle of the Northern Territory,
376.5 metres above sea level. Average maximum temperatures range from
24 degrees to 38 degrees, with an average of 22 days per year
exceeding 40 degrees. Minimum temperatures range from 12 degrees in
winter to 25 degrees in the hotter months.
Tennant Creek gets 181.0 clear days annually.
Most of the rain falls during the summer months, but occasional storms
occur at other times of the year. Average annual rainfall is 473mm.
The dry season (May to October) in
Tennant Creek is relatively sunny
with cool nights and mornings. The wet season (November to April) is
hot and humid with occasional rainfall.
Climate data for TENNANT CREEK (1969-2016)
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean daily sunshine hours
Topography and climate
Tennant Creek has a warm desert climate (Köppen
Classification BWh), it still receives a sizeable 452 mm
(17.8 in) of annual precipitation. It also has distinct wet
and dry seasons. Most rain falls during the period from December to
March, when temperatures are also at their highest. Temperatures fall
during the dry months with sunny days and mild nights. There is 9.1 to
10.4 hours of sunshine per day with an average of 155 clear days per
year. Prevailing winds are from the east to south-east.
Tennant Creek has developed from its rough, tough droving and gold
mining days into a modern town with shops and a supermarket,
accommodation, bars, clubs and restaurants, a regional hospital,
schools and banking facilities.
Parks and gardens
Mary Ann Dam
Mary Ann Dam is a popular recreation spot, easily accessible from town
by road or bicycle track and popular for swimming, barbecues, picnics
or bush walks. The area’s best known attraction, Karlu Karlu /
Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is 100 kilometres south of Tennant
Creek and is one of the Territory's most photographed features. These
huge granite boulders are scattered through a wide, shallow valley.
The formations provide shelter to a variety of flora and fauna of the
area and glow a rich red in the light of the early evening. Local
Aboriginal mythology holds that the boulders are the eggs of the
Rainbow Serpent. Visitors can take a self-guided walk
from the car park. Bush camping facilities are available.
Another popular spot close to
Tennant Creek is the Iytwelepenty /
Davenport Ranges National Park, best explored by four-wheel-drive
Telegraph Station - Tennant Creek
Buildings of the Overland Telegraph Station
Statue of Jack Noble
European history of this area began in 1860 when explorer John
McDouall Stuart passed this way on his unsuccessful first attempt to
cross the continent from South to North. He named a creek to the north
of town after John Tennant, a financier of his expedition and a
pastoralist from Port Lincoln, South Australia, in gratitude for the
financial help Tennant had provided for Stuart's expeditions across
The Overland Telegraph that once linked
constructed in the 1870s and forged a corridor through the middle of
the continent that the Explorer’s Way and Ghan train now travel. A
temporary building for a telegraph repeater station was erected near
the watercourse of
Tennant Creek in 1872. Two years later, the solid
stone buildings of the
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station that remain on
the site today, were completed by the occupants of the station. This
is one of the four remaining original telegraph stations in Australia.
Tennant Creek was the site of Australia’s last gold rush during the
1930s and at that time was the third-largest gold producer in
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station
Tennant Creek Telegraph Station remained an isolated
outpost until that time.
Tennant Creek was very hard work because Tennant
found in Iron Ore.
Gold was discovered in the ranges three miles north of the current
town area in 1926 by J Smith Roberts  In 1927 Charles Windley, a
telegraph operator, found gold on what would become Tennant Creek's
first mine, The Great Northern. Australia's last great
did not commence, however, until after Frank Juppurla, a local
Indigenous man, took gold to telegraph operator Woody Woodruffe in
December 1932. The population quickly grew to about 600, 60 of whom
were women and children. "Battery Hill" which overlooks the town of
Tennant Creek is the site of one of the last two operating ten-head
stamp batteries, a Government owned ore crushing machine.
The town of
Tennant Creek was located 12 km south of the
watercourse because the Overland Telegraph Station had been allocated
an 11 km reserve. Local legend offers a different explanation for
the town's location. In 1934 Joe Kilgarriff from
Alice Springs built
Tennant Creek hotel on the eastern side of the telegraph line .
The pub still exists and is a historic monument to the early days.
Cecil Armstrong was one man who made a contribution to the early
development of Tennant Creek. He arrived in April 1935 and began
baking bread the next day. In 1937 he built Armstrong's bakery and
cafe where he lived and worked for over twenty years as baker and cafe
proprietor. The building still stands today, albeit under a different
guise. Cecil's telephone number was simply the number 1 and his Post
Office box was also number 1.
Another important contributor to Tennant life was Mrs Weaber, wife of
the blind owner of the Rising Sun Mine, one the richest gold mines in
the district before World War II. A devout Catholic, Mrs Weaber paid
for the old church at Pine Creek to be transported to Tennant Creek
plank by wooden plank, thereby establishing the
Tennant Creek Catholic
Church. Mrs Weaber also started the
Tennant Creek Christmas tree event
when, in the early 1930s she held a party at her husband's gold mine
and gave every child on the gold field a present. Mrs Weaber's
generosity continues into the present day. Every year the town erects
a public Christmas tree and every child, local or visitor, is given a
present. The Weaber family left
Tennant Creek in 1940 following a
series of personal family tragedies. They sold the lease to what would
become Tennant's richest post war mine, Nobles Nob, before they
realised its potential. Nobles Nob was named after Jack Noble, an
old friend of the Weaber family from the days when they all lived in
the Kimberley Region of Western Australia.
Gold Mining was all but shut down in
Tennant Creek in 1942. The only
mine to remain operational was a large mine with its own crushing
plant. During World War II, the
Australian Army set up 55th
Australian Camp Hospital near Tennant Creek. The Royal Australian Air
Tennant Creek Airfield as an emergency landing ground.
The town today is situated on a stretch of the
Stuart Highway known as
Paterson Street. As it is a regional centre, it contains government
services and local business and also has a developing tourist centre.
There are a number of restaurants and tourist activities to complement
its friendly relaxed lifestyle. The people of
Tennant Creek enjoy
modern facilities including reserves, sporting venues, galleries, a
civic hall and library. It's also home to Australia's premier
go-karting event, held on a street circuit through the town.
The total population of
Tennant Creek is approximately 3000, of which
around 1500 are Aboriginal.
Tennant Creek is a multicultural
community, with residents from Britain, New Zealand, Ireland, the
Philippines, Thailand, India,
Germany as well as Australia.
Tennant Creek had a town council headed by a mayor until 1 July 2008,
when it became part of the Barkly Region.
The main Aboriginal body within the town is the Julalikari Council
which plays a major role in providing training and employment services
for the Aboriginal people in Tennant Creek. It has developed a
construction capacity and provides contract services to the Town
Council such as recycling. The Julalikari Council also provides
community services within the township such as Homemakers, aged care,
and the night patrol.
The police district covers almost 22,000 square kilometres and has a
strength of 25 officers. The force includes two Criminal Investigation
Branch (CIB) officers.
Battery Hill Complex - daily mock up of gold pouring
Tennant Creek was once the third largest gold producer in Australia
and is still highly productive. Over 210 tonnes of gold have been
mined in the area. Notable mines include,
Nobles Nob mine
Nobles Nob mine and the Peko
mine. The Bootu Mine to the north of town exports manganese to China.
Major mining companies are continuing to explore for bauxite,
lead-zinc-silver and copper around the area. Exploration has commenced
to the southeast of town for unspecified minerals.
Tennant Creek is
also the centre of the rich pastoral industry of central Australia,
with vast cattle properties stocked with herds of Santa Gertrudis and
Phosphate deposits exist at Wonarah, 250 km to the east.
Tourism is a growing industry emphasising its location, history,
scenery and cultural attributes and provides tourists with an
opportunity to experience the outback. The mineral collection at
Battery Hill is a must see, although the stamp battery ceased working
in 2005, but has since been refurbished and now operates daily for
tours. The exhibition 'Freedom, Fortitude and Flies' in the social
history museum at Battery Hill tells the story of mining in Tennant
through the eyes of women and children. It was designed by
award-winning artist Alison Alder, a former
Tennant Creek resident.
Washing bowl from 'Freedom, Fortitude and Flies' a social history
Aboriginal enterprise and organisations generate economic activity for
Tennant Creek by providing a range of services to the urban and rural
communities of the town.
Nyinkka Nyunyu Arts and Cultural Centre opened in July 2003, offering
visitors and the community an opportunity to learn about aboriginal
life, history and the land in the region. The centre promotes Arts and
Cultural activities for the whole Barkly Region.
Tennant Creek has been accessible by train since the completion of the
Adelaide-Darwin railway north from
Alice Springs in 2004. The Ghan,
run by Great Southern Rail between Adelaide and Darwin arrives twice
weekly in each direction and can pick up and set down passengers on
Great Southern Railway
Great Southern Rail railway stations
Coober Pedy (Manguri)
Stations and services in italics are planned or under construction
Tennant Creek is serviced by
Tennant Creek Airport. Charter flights
can be organised from Darwin or
Alice Springs to Tennant Creek.
Outback Airlines currently service Tennant Creek, providing mining
Alice Springs and
Tennant Creek with seats available
to the general public.
Tennant Creek has daily coach bus service from Darwin, Alice Springs,
and Queensland. The Barkly Tablelands are best explored via Tennant
Creek, which can be accessed on the fully sealed Explorer’s Way,
1,000 kilometres south of Darwin, 670 kilometres south of Katherine
and 510 kilometres north of Alice Springs. The Overlander’s Way
(Barkly Highway) is another tourism drive from
Queensland that meets
the Explorer’s Way at Threeways – 25 kilometres north of Tennant
In May 2005, Minemakers and ATEC signed an agreement to study a
250 km open access railway from
Tennant Creek to Wonarah.
Historically, and in 2009 there has been suggestion of a rail link
Tennant Creek and Mount Isa. This link would allow
resources companies to gain access to both the Adelaide-Darwin (The
Ghan) and Townsville-Mount Isa (The Inlander) lines. The missing rail
link would also provide rail passengers with direct rail access to
Darwin from the East Coast of Australia. The Australian Defence Force
may also use the link to provide a rail access between the 1st Brigade
in Darwin, and the 3rd Brigade in Townsville.
Tennant Creek has a primary and high school. In the 1970s and 80s,
secondary students tended to leave
Tennant Creek and board at
secondary schools in Darwin and Alice Springs, but today young people
prefer to remain at schools in Tennant Creek.
Society and culture
Aboriginal people have lived in the Barkly region for over 40,000
years. The Barkly region is steeped in the ancient traditions and
beliefs of its traditional custodians and around nine Aboriginal
groups, including the Warumungu, Warlpiri,
Kaytetye and Alyawarre
people call the area home.
Tennant Creek is an important social,
cultural and business centre for many Aboriginal people of various
Leisure and entertainment
Northern Territory holds several regional events throughout the
year, which in some cases can impact on visitor numbers to the region.
Events located within the Barkly Area during the year include the
Desert Harmony Festival, the Barkly Campdraft and Rodeo, Saint
Patrick’s Day Races, Barkly May Day Muster and the Brunette Downs
Races. The World Solar Car Challenge takes place every second
Music and Art
Tennant Creek has a rich and colourful musical community, and the
Winanjjikari Music Centre home to a number of emerging singers,
songwriters and musicians. In 2003 the award-winning Nyinkka Nyunyu
Cultural Centre was opened, a purpose-built centre, planned and
designed in close consultation with local Aboriginal people. The
centre houses exhibitions on local history from an Aboriginal point of
view, cultural displays and local artwork. It is considered one of the
best of its kind in the Northern Territory, beautifully presented and
maintained by the local people.
There are a number of sports and recreation clubs in
Tennant Creek for
Northern Territory portal
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tennant_Creek.
Iytwelepenty / Davenport Range National Park
Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve
^ a b
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Tennant Creek
(Urban Centre)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 18 December
^ Tennant Creek' Climate
^ "Climate statistics for Tennant Creek".
^ "World Map of Köppen-Geiger Climate Classification" (PDF).
University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 14 January 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
^ "Climate Statistics for Australian Locations". Australian Bureau of
Meteorology. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
^ McKeon, MR, (consulting engineer) '
Tennant Creek Goldfield' in
Chemical Engineering and Mining Review, 10 August 1940.
^ Pearce, Howard,
Tennant Creek Historic Sites Study: A Report to the
National Trust of Australia,
Northern Territory Volume 2, December
^ Kelham, Megg (2007). "Discovering Local History at the Battery Hill
Mining Centre Collaborative Museums Education Project". Northern
Territory Library. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
^ Kelham, Megg. "A Tennant Childhood: Kevan Weaber Remembers
1932–1940". Retrieved 31 October 2015.
^ Kelham, Megg (2012). "A Very Short History of
Tennant Creek from a
Woman's Point of View".
Northern Territory Library. Retrieved 31
^ "Minemakers: Wonarah Rock Phosphate". minemakers.com.au. Retrieved
31 October 2015.
^ Australian Railmaps, "RAIL MAP - PERTH to ADELAIDE, CENTRAL AND
NORTHERN AUSTRALIA". Accessed 12 June 2007.
Railway Gazette International May 2009, p25
^ "Miner urges Tennant Creek-Mt Isa rail link". ABC News. Retrieved 31
^ "Holiday in the NT". travelnt.com. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Tennant Creek.
Official Government web site
Official Tourism web site for
Tennant Creek and surrounds
Nyinkka Nyunyu Cultural Centre
Local Government Association of the Northern Territory
Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project
Fire and Rescue Service
Alice Springs Region