Origin of the name ‘Mataranka’
The name “Mataranka” means “home of the snake,” and comes from the local indigenous language. John A. Gilruth originally named a sheep farm Mataranka. When the North Australian Railroad was being developed, the town adopted the name Mataranka.
Mataranka First Nation History
Before European settlers arrived in Australia, Mangarayi and Yangman people occupied the region surrounding the Roper River. The Mangarayi people are believed to have had control over 12,000 square km of land. Their land stretched from Mataranka to Mount Lindsay. The Yangman people lived on the land east of the Mangarayi. Their language is sadly no longer spoken, as the last person to fluently speak passed away in 1986. However, small fragments of the language have survived through a handful of Mangarayi people.
Elsey Station: Down the Road from Mataranka
Elsey Station was developed by Abraham Wallace in 1879 after securing a pastoral lease. He and his nephew, J.H. Palmer went on to purchase over 2,500 cattle and created Elsey Station. After Wallace’s suicide in 1887, multiple people owned Elsey Station. One of these owners was Aeneas Gunn. He and his wife, Jennie Gunn ran Elsey Station from 1902 to 1903 when Aeneas died from Blackwater fever. Jennie left Elsey shortly later.
Mataranka’s Famous Book: We of the Never Never
Jennie returned to Melbourne, where she had previously lived. Here she reminisced of her time in Elsey and wrote an autobiography titled, We of the Never Never, which was published in 1909. By 1990, over one million copies of the book had been sold. Jennie changed the names of all the characters, and published the book under her husband’s first name (his first name was Aeneas), as Mrs. Aeneas Gunn.
Mataranka in World War 2
During World War 2, Mataranka was used as a headquarters for hundreds of workers. They assisted the army and operated a hospital and had ammunition dumps.
Things to do in Mataranka
Elsey National Park is adjacent to Mataranka and is a tourism favourite. Elsey offers amazing walks and swimming areas and is family-friendly. Bitter Springs and Mataranka Thermal Pool are two naturally occurring swimming holes. They are perfect for relaxing and are family-friendly. They are located in Elsey National Park.
Are you a fan of Jeannie Gunn’s book, We of the Never Never? Visit The Never Never Museum in Mataranka. The museum gives visitors a visual of how life was lived in the early 1900s, where the book takes place, as well as plenty of information. In addition, many of the people that the characters from the book are inspired by are buried in Elsey Cemetery National Reserve. This site is full of Mataranka’s rich history.
Come Visit Mataranka
Come visit Mataranka and see all it has to offer. Stay in the highly recommended Territory Manor Motel & Caravan Park. Mataranka is 7.5 kms from the accommodation. The nearest airport is Katherine Tindal Civilian, 103 kms from Territory Manor Motel & Caravan Park, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service. This property is part of the Travel Sustainable program, which means it’s taken significant steps to make your stay more sustainable.
We hope you have an amazing time visiting Mataranka next to Elsey National Park! We would love your feedback – please comment below if you’ve been or if you have any questions or suggestions.
* Cover image is by @owilliammoura on IG.