The band was formed in 1980 by Neil Murray, a Victorian "whitefella" working in the region as a schoolteacher and labourer, George Burarrwanga, from Elcho Island, and local boys Gordon and Sammy Butcher. Over the years, many different people played in the band at various times. The only consistent elements were Murray and Burarrwanga, with Sammy Butcher generally being available so long as band commitments didn't take him too far from home for too long.
In 1983, the band recorded "Jailanguru Pakarnu", the first song using an aboriginal language in a rock'n'roll format. This created some mainstream media interest, and the band made a few trips to the big cities of Melbourne and Sydney for gigs and TV appearances.
In Sydney, they built up a loyal following in the Sydney northern beaches pub rock scene, and played as support to Midnight Oil. In 1985 the band released their debut album "Big Name, No Blankets", featuring the track "Blackfella/Whitefella".
In 1986, Midnight Oil and the Warumpi Band embarked on the "Blackfella/Whitefella Tour" which brought one of Australia's biggest bands to some of the country's remotest locations. The resulting Midnight Oil album, "Diesel and Dust" was an international hit and brought the issues of land rights and aboriginal reconciliation into the national spotlight.
The Warumpi Band recorded their second album, "Go Bush!" after the tour, but the strain of balancing family commitments with the band took its toll and they were unable to capitalise on the groundswell created by the Blackfella/Whitefella tour.
Neil Murray embarked on a solo career in 1990, though the band still reunited when it fitted in amongst their other activities.
1996 saw the release of their third and final album "Too Much Humbug", and a renewed (if brief) commitment including a European tour. Burarrwanga is reputed to have arrived in Paris and been amazed that people in this so-called civilised nation couldn't even speak English - after all, he himself spoke nearly a dozen different languages of the north of Australia.
In the following years, reunion gigs were sporadic, generally for festivals and other one-off appearances. In 2000, Neil Murray decided enough was enough and retired from the band for good, concentrating on his solo career which by that time had produced several critically acclaimed albums.
George Burarrwanga continued to perform as a solo artist, and released an album. In 2007, he returned to his "Island Home" when lung cancer took him, and he passed away on June 10th of that year.
Sammy Butcher remains heavily involved with a recording studio in Alice Springs, bringing the opportunity to record to outback youth. He has also recorded an album of instrumental guitar songs.