Aputula is a community in the Northern Territory. It is south of Alice Springs, 159 km east of the Stuart Highway near the South Australia Northern Territory border. The Finke River (dry for most of the year, except during occasional floods) passes within a few kilometres of the community, on its way to Lake Eyre in the north of South Australia.
The community, which was called Finke until the 1980s, began as a railway siding on the Central Australian Railway. Lower Southern Arrernte and Luritja people quickly established a camp in the sandhills nearby, trading dingo scalps, artefacts and other items for European goods. A police station was built in the late 1930s, but the big boost to local settlement took place after when local pastoralists convinced the government to move its cattle yards from Rumbalara to Finke because the water quality at Finke was much better. In the 1950s and 60s Finke became the centre of a vibrant regional community with regular horse races, a school and a pub. Life revolved around the arrival and departure of the train which became a source of cash income for Indigenous locals who sold artefacts and wild flowers to the passengers. Most of the Europeans left Finke when the railway line was shifted westwards in the late 1970s following the huge track damaging floods of 1973 and 1974.
The indigenous population did not move. Instead, with the help of Margaret Bain, a Uniting Church missionary, they moved off the sand dunes into houses they built themselves. It was during this time that the town came to be known as Aputula. The name comes from a place called ‘Putula’ near the community, which used to be the site of a water soakage. Putula is an Arrernte word. Arrernte people used to get their water there, before the white people and the railway line came to the area.