The Kimberley Traditional Custodians

  © TWS Images. Windjana Gorge

© TWS Images. Windjana Gorge

Thirty distinct Aboriginal language groups live in the Kimberley. Many of which date back over 40,000 years and are still tirelessly fighting to protect the land from the threats of industrialisation. The Wilderness Society of Western Australia has been helping protect and respect the rich culture of the region since the mid 1980s by advocating against fracking and legislature that would harm the land, and listening to the Traditional Custodians


The Wilderness Society of Western Australia along with a passionate group of supporters recently went to the region to learn from the Traditional Custodians. During the trip, the attendees visited the sacred and historically important locations, from the land that was important to Jandamarra’s story and James Price Point is integral to the songline of the  Goolarabooloo people.

 Windjana Gorge

Windjana Gorge

The Windjana Gorge formed 350 million years ago. It is highly spiritual to the Bunuba people as it is the home of the creation spirits, also known as the Windjana. Thousands of years later, Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek had a new importance with famous Aboriginal warrior Jandamarra.

Jandamarra, of the Bunuba people, grew up and became a strong horseman and a tracker.

After a raid that led to the arrest of many Bunuba elders on October 31, 1894, he returned to his people and became a strong leader who organised guerrilla attacks against the European colonisation. During this time, he used the Windjana Gorge. Stretching over 100 metres tall, its water streaked walls were a perfect hiding place for Jandamarra.  

  © TWS images. An entrance to Tunnel Creek.

© TWS images. An entrance to Tunnel Creek.

James Price Point is another beautiful place, and is integral to the Goolarabooloo people. Its traditional name, Walmadany, is named after a famous warrior who protected the land. The Lurujarri Heritage Trail has been passing through this land since 1987. It’s an impressive 82km walk from Minyirr (the southern end of Cable Beach) to Minarriny (Coulomb Point) in nine days.

This annual track encourages the people to pass through the land for a track as they appreciate the nature and its spiritual importance. During the threat of Woodside Petroleum to James Price Point in 2014, the Goolarabooloo people trekked four times. Even though it is a recent development, this trail signifies the continuous importance that the land has towards its people.

  © TWS Images. James Price Point.

© TWS Images. James Price Point.

Fracking is a constant threat, not only to the sacred land, but also to health. Chemicals are used to release tight shells of methane gas underwater, and has a disastrous impact on the surrounding land.

The Canning Basin, which underlies the Fitzroy River, will be instrumental to fracking unless it is stopped. The Fitzroy River is used in many ceremonies, but can also be used to create drinking water. Fracking has proven to impact the drinking water, and will continue to destroy the culture’s history and potentially their lives.

  © TWS images.Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina

© TWS images.Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina

Many Traditional Custodians still fight to preserve this, including Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina and Yawuru Traditional Custodian Micklo Corpus. They have engaged with large cooperation to protect the Fitzroy River and other parts of their land. They remain determined, and their understanding of the land can only be described as inspiring.

The Kimberley is one of the rare untouched lands left in Western Australia. Its culture needs to be preserved for future generation, yet it will continue to be threatened by industrialisation. Help the land and the people around it by joining the Wildeness Society of Western Australia’s Kimberley Campaign.