Skip to content

Bunuba rock art maintenance

Steve Heggie (Healthy Landscape Manager)
Published 20 Jul 2016 by Steve Heggie (Healthy Landscape Manager)

Steve Heggie is currently stationed in the Kimberly to work with Bunuba Traditional Owners as they set about planning to manage their country in partnership with Bush Heritage Australia.

The Kimberly is well known for its Aboriginal rock art, particularly the celebrated Wanjina paintings of the coastal areas such as found within the Bush Heritage/Wunambal Gaambera indigenous partnership area.

Here in the western Kimberly, Bunuba rock art sets itself apart with an amazing diversity of rock art styles and ages. It reflects the geological landscape and biology of the land that Bunuba people inhabit – spanning the regional ecotones of desert, grasslands and rangelands through to the borders between Bunuba lands and those of the coastal Muwayi mobs.

Bunuba art echoes this natural and cultural boundary, including both southern examples of Wanjina and northern examples of petroglyph rock art.

It’s an eclectic rock star mix of geological and artwork sites that the Bunuba and Bush Heritage are now diving into as we work on the Bunuba Jalangurru Muwayi Healthy Country Plan.

The Jalangurru Muwayi captures Bunuba intent to manage these sites with a mixture of 'two-way' knowledge – science and Bunuba living culture in collaboration. Bush Heritage has engaged Dr Melissa Marshal to assist the Bunuba to bring this to fruition by sharing her knowledge of the rock art maintenance programs she has been working on in Kakadu‘s World Heritage recognised cultural galleries.

The Kakadu experience of management and maintenance is based around the premise that they are living cultural sites, not museums. The Bunuba recognise that their continuous living culture is needed to ensure current and future generations are able to access and visit their sites to conduct ceremony, law, Jumba and painting. Through this, Bunuba rock art sites will be managed and protected.

We’ve begun working out how to address rock art in the Jalangurru Muwayi by visiting a rock art site of cultural importance with traditional owners to get cultural direction.

The site has a heady mix of art styles, ages, rock types and cultural significance. So it can provide a template for the wider rock art maintenance program to come. It has examples of sedimentary rock that is flaking away and peeling art off with it, seasonal water inundation and fairy martin's using the galleries for nesting.

Dr Mel's expertise will make recommendations on how best to manage and restore the sites, and to train Bunuba people to roll out a program in which they record cultural site base-line data using the monitoring protocols we develop together and to do the site maintenance they identify as necessary.

The maintenance activities will involve correctly removing wasp, termite and fairy martin nests, and managing weeds and fire in the area. It will also include cultural activities that keep the sites, stories and law alive.

One of the most important and wonderful part of the site management is the renewal of paintings through ceremony.

I've found this to be a truly fantastic and rewarding example of the Bunuba’s cultural health, and their connection to law and country.

Fairy martin nests on a gallery. Fairy martin nests on a gallery.
Flaked rock with art ochre on it. Flaked rock with art ochre on it.
A western-facing rock art gallery. A western-facing rock art gallery.
Access to high galleries can be difficult. Access to high galleries can be difficult.
Petroglyphs are a form of rock art made by pecking the surface away with a stone hammer. Petroglyphs are a form of rock art made by pecking the surface away with a stone hammer.

Related stories

BLOG 27/04/2021

Bunuba right-way winthali

On Bunuba country in the Kimberley, essential winthali (fire) work is being undertaken to prepare the land for the dry season.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 12/06/2020

Seeds of change

Fire can be as harmful as it is essential in the Kimberley of Western Australia. Maintaining that fine balance is at the heart of the Bunuba Rangers’ fire program, bringing right-way winthali back to country.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 16/12/2019

Food for thought

Bunuba muwayi (country) is home to many bush plants and foods. Now, in a book called Yarrangi Thangaṉi Luṉdu, Mayi Yani-u, the Bunuba community have shared their knowledge of muwayi and the stories of their abundant, beautiful and lifegiving part of the world.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 22/03/2019

Burning the right way

Using Western technologies and traditional knowledge to keep country healthy and a millenia-old tradition alive.

Read More

BLOG 17/10/2018

Noodling with crocs in Bunuba Country

Being invited to join the Bunuba Rangers and Parks and Wildlife rangers at the annual Winjana Gorge Freshwater Crocodile survey has been an indredible introduction to my new role in Bunuba Country.

Read More

BLOG 10/05/2018

Preparing for Barrangga

Recently I had the pleasure of being part of the annual fire management work undertaken by the Bunuba Rangers and Traditional Landowners on Leopold Downs Station (Yarrangi) in the Kimberley.

Read More

BLOG 27/10/2016

Fire fighting green team

Bunuba Rangers attended the recent Kimberley mega wildfire, which has burnt over 1.5 million ha of remote county across the indigenous protected areas (IPAs) and pastoral properties in the western Kimberley.

Read More
Placeholder

BLOG 20/07/2016

Bunuba rock art maintenance

The Kimberly is well known for its Aboriginal rock art, particularly the celebrated Wanjina paintings of the coastal areas such as found within the Bush Heritage - Wunambal Gaambera indigenous partnership area. In the western Kimberly, Bunuba rock art sets itself apart with an amazing diversity of rock art styles and ages.

Read More

BLOG 20/06/2016

Stone axe oldest in the world

Forty nine thousand years is old by anyone's measure. The Bunuba people were proudly in the national spotlight recently when the Australian National University published its carbon dating of a Bunuba polished stone axe. The discovery pushes the development of axe technology back to between 45,000 and 49,000 years ago, coinciding with the arrival of people in Australia. The fragment is 10,000 years older than the previous oldest known axe fragments found in northern Australia in 2010.

Read More

BLOG 14/10/2015

Croc wrangling for a healthy country

The Bunuba Rangers have just finished participating in the annual freshwater crocodile survey of Windjanna Gorge. Led by WA Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) ecologists, a spotlight survey recorded 170 crocs in the main pool, consistent with previous annual surveys.

Read More

BLOG 05/08/2015

New partnership with Bunuba people

On invitation from community leaders in Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Bush Heritage Australia has officially launched its partnership with the Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) – this has been 18 months in development.

Read More
Loading...
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}