Protecting the Kimberley with The Wilderness Society of Western Australia

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.

  © TWS Images. Windjana Gorge

© TWS Images. Windjana Gorge

The Wilderness Society of Western Australia along with a passionate group of supporters went to the region to learn from the Traditional Custodians. During the trip, the attendees visited the sacred and historically important locations; in particular, Windjana Gorge that has significance to Jandamarra, the famous Aboriginal warrior’s story and James Price Point, home to the Lurujarri Trail which follows the songline of the Goolarabooloo people.
(A songline is a route believed to have been travelled along during the Dreamtime).

 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 the 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 31st 1894, Jandamurra 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, its walls stretching over 100 metres tall, as a hiding place. 

  © TWS images. An entrance to Tunnel Creek.

© TWS images. An entrance to Tunnel Creek.

James Price Point (its traditional name is Walmadany, named after a warrior who protected the land) is another beautiful place, integral to the Goolarabooloo people because the Lurujarri Trail, which has been passing through this land since 1987, traces the group's traditional songline. 

The trail is an impressive 82km walk from Minyirr (the southern end of Cable Beach) to Minarriny (Coulomb Point) that can be covered in nine days. It was established to encourage community members 'to conserve; renew and stay connected with their heritage and traditional skills and to keep the same alive for generations to come.' 

During the threat of Woodside Petroleum to James Price Point in 2014, the Goolarabooloo people trekked four times. 

  © TWS Images. James Price Point.

© TWS Images. James Price Point.

Western Australia has one of the world's largest reserves of gas trapped underground and as a result, these sacred lands are under constant threat from fracking.

Fracking is drilling into the rock, and pumping chemicals, sand and water at high pressures to release tight shells of methane gas. The consequences include land instability and degradation, air pollution and chronic health problems. 

Not only land but rivers such as the Fitzroy River can be affected by fracking which has been proven to impact drinking water.

  © TWS images.Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina

© TWS images.Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina

Many Traditional Custodians fight passionately to preserve their sacred lands, including Nyikina Traditional Custodian Dr Anne Poelina and Yawuru Traditional Custodian Micklo Corpus. They have engaged with large cooperations 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, that holds not only natural but cultural significance. It is a stunning corner of the world and it is hard to argue against its protection, not only for current but future generations. 

We hope this little piece helps shed some insight on the beauty and importance of the Kimberley.

If you would like to learn more, here are some useful links: