What we do

What we do

Ngangkari are anangu traditional healers, who have received special tools and training from their grandparents. Anangu have a culturally based view of causation and recovery from physical and mental illness and attribute many illness and emotional states to harmful elements in the Anangu spiritual world. 

Ngangkari are highly valued for their unique ability to protect and heal individuals and communities from this harm.

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The NPYWC Ngangkari Project began in 1998, as part of an OATSISH ESWB program, but from 2000 has been funded by Country Health SA. Mr Peters (dec), Andy Tjilari, and more recently Toby Baker, Andy Tjilari and Wakupi Clem Toby (with more to come) are employed by NPYWC to work as ngangkari in communities in the region, as well as hospitals, nursing homes, gaols, hostels and health services in regional centres.

In 2011 NPYWC received funding from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation to employ a team of women ngangkari, located in communities throughout the region. Maringka Burton, Pantjiti McKenzie, Naomi Kantjurinyi, Ilawanti Ken, Josephine Watjari Mick  and Tinpulya Mervyn all work part time. The women’s team have a particular focus on the wellbeing of children and women, and also a strong interest in producing and promoting bush medicines.

The Ngangkari Project aims to:

  • provide Anangu from the NPY region with ngangkari traditional healing
  • promote the work and skills of ngangkari, as a means of ensuring their work is. highly valued and respected within the broader mainstream mental health and public health system
  • educate health and mental health workers about the role and work of ngangkari.
  • provide direction for the development of culturally appropriate mental health services in the region.

The ngangkari believe that collaboration and mutual respect between western health and human services and ngangkari lead to the best outcomes for Anangu. They say western and Anangu practitioners have different but equally valuable skills and knowledge and both are needed to address the significant problems Anangu face. The ngangkari of the NPYWC project have worked hard in the past 10 years to have the importance and value of their work recognised by mainstream health systems, and have successfully established strong relationships with local health and mental health services. The effectiveness of their work in indigenous mental health was acknowledged in 2009 with a prestigious award from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and also with the Dr Margaret Tobin Award for excellence in mental health service delivery.

In 2000 a group of over 50 ngangkari met at Uluru and decided they would tell their stories as an attempt to educate non-indigenous health workers about the importance and value of ngangkari, with the aim of encouraging greater collaboration and understanding within the mainstream health system.

NPY Women’s Council has published a book of their stories called “Traditional Healers of Central Australia; Ngangkuri”, available through our online shop http://www.npywc.org.au/shop/

A DVD about their work, called ‘Ngangkari’, is available through Ronin Films. www.roninfilms.com.au/feature/778.html