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Financial capacity-building and strategic planning for YAC's directors

Madelaine Dickie

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation

YAC's directors and steering committee members have been busy putting their heads together to develop a strategic plan for the organisation. They've also been participating in a financial capacity-building workshop. All this happened in FX last week. Big shout out and thank you to Frank Weisenberger for delivering a great workshop.

Northern Australia Indigenous Ranger Forum

Madelaine Dickie

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation Fitzroy Crossing

Last year, the northern Australia Indigenous Ranger Forum was held at Gurrbalgun (Pender Bay) on Bardi country ... this year, it was hosted by the Carpentaria Land Council. Frankie and Cyril, two of our Ngurrara rangers, travelled for a total of six days to attend this important event. 

Women rangers storm Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair fashion show

Peter Murray

Yanunijarra Darwin Fashion Show .jpg
Ngurrara women rangers

Our women rangers have been in Darwin over the weekend for the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair fashion show. They were busy with the Marnin Studio selling scarves, shirts, bags and dresses - the dresses were made with native bush dyes and block printing which they did out at Djugerari community. Each dress is more than just a dress ... it contains the passion of being out on country!! Wonderful job to all the ladies involved.

Canning cultural tours on the cards

Peter Murray

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation

Our permit sales are up and tourism operators would gladly support cultural tours run by the Ngurrara rangers—these are some of the findings of a recent survey undertaken for Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation. 

Bianca Eriyagama, a secondee through the Jawun program, conducted the survey to assess the established patterns of behavior by tourists travelling the Canning Stock Route and the potential for future tourism development by YAC. 

Over a period of three days she surveyed 138 people. Many respondents were adamant that a minimalist approach to development should be taken. What makes the Canning a unique travel experience is its isolation, and respondents said being self-sufficient is one of the joys of the trip.

But there is one thing lacking, and that’s toilets. Respondents were enthusiastic about our plans to build toilet facilities and shade at Well 46. 

Bianca also spoke informally with a number of tourism providers about Ngurrara-run cultural tours. The providers were excited about the possibility of giving travelers the opportunity to interact with the Ngurrara rangers and expressed a willingness to work with YAC on the development of a cultural tourism product. 

This survey and Bianca’s work with us, has given YAC a basis from which we can now begin to thoroughly map the concept and then implement a plan to get our tours started. We foresee the next steps will be consulting with the right family groups to determine content and employment opportunities, and offering tourism training to the rangers who’ll be involved.

We’re in a unique position—once our tours are up and running, they’ll be the first Indigenous cultural tours on the Canning! 

Picture credit: Jawun

Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara Native Title Celebrations

Peter Murray


Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation is thrilled that today, after six years, native title has been successfully determined for Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara, over 22,064.21 square kilometers of land in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. 

The consent determination was held at Ngurtuwarta Community and it means that now, people who are part of the Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara group can leverage their native title rights to manage country in a way that aligns with their cultural and heritage values. 

There are many cross-overs between members of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation and Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara and by June 30, 2018, Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation will be the representative Prescribed Body Corporate for the group and will manage all operational activities. 

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation’s CEO Peter Murray, says that by standing together, Walmajarri people are much stronger.     

“When it comes to delivering positive programs for Walmajarri people everyone needs to be on the same page. That’s the only way we can go forward. Bringing everyone in under Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation means we have a strong base to create economic development and to guide development on our country,” Mr Murray says.  

The Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara native title area covers Aboriginal communities, pastoral leases, mining leases and part of the Fitzroy Crossing township, meaning a key focus over the next twelve months will be strengthening partnerships.

“Traditional Owners need to be at the table when it comes to any development proposals on our country—especially development along the Fitzroy River. We don’t want to be left out. We do want to be considered as equal. With the consent determination now in place we’re willing to work with all pastoral owners and communities for the benefit of the whole area,” Mr Murray says. 

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation would like to thank all those who contributed to the successful recognition of Yi-Martuwarra Ngurrara native title, including Traditional Owners, state and federal governments, pastoralists and the Kimberley Land Council.

Funding success for desert fire and biodiversity project

Peter Murray

Ngurrara Rangers

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) is delighted to announce that it’s one of 13 Aboriginal organisations to successfully receive funding as part of the WA state government’s five-year Aboriginal Ranger Program.

The funding will provide employment for four rangers to work on a desert fire and biodiversity project, in partnership with Karajarri Traditional Lands Association. The project will involve improving the fire management, cultural knowledge, and biodiversity within the Great Sandy Desert sections of the Karajarri and Ngurrara Indigenous Protected Areas, and the jointly managed areas of Kurriji Pa Yajula and Walyarta Nature Reserves. All up, the project area covers approximately 110,000km2. 

YAC’s CEO Peter Murray, says he welcomes this funding for the opportunity it provides to work with Ngurrara’s Karajarri neighbours on an area of special cultural and conservation significance.

“The area we’re talking about is home to the federally vulnerable bilby and it’s one of three refugia that’s free of foxes and rabbits. It also borders the Paraku IPA, where the elusive and critically endangered night parrot was recently spotted. This will have a bearing on our fire management of the area,” Mr Murray says.

A key concern of the project is to reduce late season wildfires, which can cause devastation to country. This will be done through controlled burns, where our rangers will travel by foot, car, helicopter and plane, to ensure the protection of cultural sites, threatened species and ecological communities.

As the project progresses, YAC will continue to investigate other ways to grow its ranger program.

“YAC’s aim is to become self-sustaining. We have a permit system in place along the Canning Stock Route and are looking to avenues to grow the tourism potential there; we’re also building the capacity of our rangers so that they can then take on fee for service work. YAC’s committed to creating employment opportunities on Ngurrara country and to looking after our country and its stories,” Mr Murray says.

For more information, please visit our website: For media enquiries, please contact Madelaine Dickie on 

YAC represents at Indigenous Desert Alliance Forum

Peter Murray

IDA Forum photo for MADDIE for web .jpg

Representatives from the Ngurrara Rangers and Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation travelled to Fremantle last week for an intense three-day forum on desert management. The forum, organised by the Indigenous Desert Alliance, aims to connect Indigenous rangers from Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, and gives them the space to discuss management issues particular to desert country.

During this year’s annual forum, there were talks on the night parrot, fire management, two-way learning, threatened species and the threats posed by predators, such as foxes and cats. Chantelle Murray, Frankie McCarthy, Joycelyn McCarthy and Eloise Page represented Yanunijarra, and Chantelle and Frankie did a great job in an impromptu discussion about our work collecting data on bilbies. We also put in a joint poster presentation with Track Care. The poster, pictured above, is titled Warrakammarnu Mapirrilu, which means working together. It tells the story of Track Care and Yanunijarra's joint effort to build a Ranger Base at Well 49 on the Canning.

In addition to rangers, the forum was also attended by the Honourable Ben Wyatt MLA, and representatives from Pew Charitable Trusts (who have been driving the Country Needs People Campaign), the CSIRO, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity to come together with other desert rangers and to learn about other projects that are underway.

A big thank you to the Indigenous Desert Alliance! 

Giant painting ‘awakened’ in the desert

Peter Murray

  Photo courtesy of the Kimberley Land Council. 

Photo courtesy of the Kimberley Land Council. 

More than 100 people have gathered in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of the Ngurrara Canvas II. The canvas, measuring 8m by 10m, is a vivid map of Ngurrara country, and was prepared as evidence for the Ngurrara native title claim. This is the first time the canvas has been returned to the banks of Lake Pirnini, where it was originally painted in 1997.

Terry Murray, the youngest of the forty artists to work on the canvas and the head of the Ngurrara Canvas Management Committee, says it’s time to ‘Parnkimanu Ngurrara’—to awaken the canvas back out on Ngurrara country. 

“Now is the time to celebrate, to 'Parnkimanu Ngurrara' with the power of the Ngurarra artists that painted the canvas. We want to recognise those who are deceased, and those who are still standing. Now is the time to come together after 20 years to celebrate and awaken our unique Ngurarra canvas," Mr Murray says. 

During the canvas celebrations, the management committee will hold further discussions around the canvas’ future. 

“The celebration will give us the momentum to move forward, hand-in-hand with Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, to develop a plan to look after the canvas. We would like to take the next generation and the standing elders on a journey to explore how we can celebrate the canvas’ power going forward,” Mr Murray says.

The canvas illustrates the significant jila (springs) and jumu (soaks) across Ngurrara country, with the only concession to Western mapping a depiction of the Canning Stock Route. Ten years after the canvas was painted, Ngurrara were granted exclusive possession native title over approximately 77, 595 square kilometres—an area larger than Tasmania. 

The Parnkimanu Ngurrara event was supported by Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, the registered native title body corporate established to manage the Ngurrara native title area. 

Shell Two-Way Learning Camp at Kurlku and Pirnini

Peter Murray

Karen Yungabun, Yanunijarra’s Ngurarra 2 Way Learning Officer, uses ice cream to teach kids about groundwater. She gets a clear plastic tub and fills the bottom of the tub with choc-chips—these are the rocks. Then she drenches the rocks in fizzy lemonade. The lemonade represents groundwater. On top of the groundwater goes the ice-cream, the clay. Then finally, she masks the ice cream with sprinkles. The sprinkles represent the top layer of soil.

It's Karen’s aim to teach kids about water in a way that’s visual and memorable.

“Water’s important for everybody, but especially for us, Ngurrara people, because our water is scarce,” Karen says.

The Ngurrara 2 Way Learning project is a cultural and environmental program combining western science and traditional knowledge, and with a focus on water monitoring. It’s funded by Shell Australia, and the purpose of the project is to build the capacity, aspirations and employability skills of Ngurrara youth.

In August, the Ngurrara rangers accompanied primary-aged students from Djugerari Remote Community School and Ngalapita Remote Community School to Kurlku, Pirnini and Purluwarla, in the Great Sandy Desert. Here, the rangers ran a bush classroom, teaching the kids how to use water monitoring equipment to test the conductivity and pH levels at Lake Pirnini, and at the jila Purluwarla.

“Looking after water—after ngapa—is looking after country. This project is important, because it recognises the value of Indigenous knowledge and language, and it pairs this with a western science perspective,” Karen says.

The results of the tests, which included unusually high levels of salt at Purluwarla jila (where there’s an uncapped artesian bore), are consistent with the results gathered a month earlier. On this earlier trip, our rangers, Yanunijarra staff, and scientists from the University of Western Australia, travelled further afield, visiting three bores, three jila and one jumu. Some of the highlights included visiting the newly named ‘Frankies Bore’, which we have looked for on previous trips, but couldn’t find because of the dense vegetation; measuring bore water levels and quality; and camping out at Willi, where there’s usually plenty of bush tucker, like sand goannas, wild turkeys, echidnas and bush cats. There was also another animal that used to live in the area, but that finished a long time ago. The trip was important not just for the rangers to learn new skills, but for maintenance to be undertaken at the bores and for Ngurrara knowledge about local plants and animals to be shared.

The Ngurrara 2-Way Learning Project is now in its last year of funding. It has definitely been a success, in that it’s allowed us to teach our young people about jila and jumu both through traditional stories and western science. It’s also allowed us to gather a baseline of information about our water, against which we can measure future impacts of development and climate change. 

The untapped bore

Peter Murray

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation

There were plenty of blown tyres, damper-making sessions, and water testing last week in the Great Sandy Desert. The Ngurrara Rangers, Traditional Owners, young people and researchers from the University of Western Australia, were on a Two-Way Learning trip to check the water levels and quality at a number of our significant jilas in the desert. We identified one particularly problematic issue at Purluwarla, where evaporation at an untapped bore has made the water too saline to drink. We're discussing the best way to manage the issue at the moment. One option is to pour concrete down the bore ... but that would mean we couldn't drink from it again. Another option is to cap the bore and install a tap. In addition to water monitoring, our rangers also did some patchwork burns and weed management. Head to our photos page for more pics!

Employment Opportunity

Peter Murray

We're calling for a new Ngurrara 2-Way Learning officer! The Ngurrara 2-Way Learning officer will manage and record knowledge on the Ngurrara Database, develop educational multi-media tools, and work with schools to implement the 2-Way Learning curriculum. For the full information and application kit please click here.

Opinion: Peter Murray on addressing youth crime

Peter Murray

Last week, we heard that there were growing calls from the community for a bush-based detention centre in the Kimberley. While I believe this would be better than the current situation (with Kimberley children flown to detention in Perth), I don’t think it addresses the underlying issues.

Many of our children are driven to commit crimes because of dysfunctional home lives and boredom. During the long, wet season school holidays, there aren’t a lot of activities in Kimberley towns, especially for kids in secondary school.

I think it’s too simple to assume that if kids have a strong grounding in law and culture, they will commit fewer crimes. Having just finished law business around Fitzroy Crossing, I have seen children with the perception that because they are now considered ‘men’, they no longer have to attend school. Some local families also encourage this perception.

Addressing issues of youth crime really needs to start with families, and if families are dysfunctional, other organisations need to step in. We have the infrastructure—both from Aboriginal-run and government-run organisations. Many of these organisations even have a specific mandate to support children and families to live healthy lives. But unfortunately, it’s been my experience that they do not always work effectively, or work together.

I think it’s achievable, I think we can turn around this trend toward crime in our communities. But I don’t think any one organisation can do it alone. An issue of this complexity requires a whole community response. The funding is there. The facilities and the services are there. What we must find now is the will to work together. 

Is Ngurrara's water safe to drink?

Peter Murray

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation

Our old people knew that the taste of water in the desert changes, depending on the time of year. They knew that jumu fill and flood in the wet, then disappear in the dry. They knew that jila don’t disappear, but that the water level sometimes fluctuates.  

These observations are part of our traditional ecological knowledge, or TEK, and they’ve now been corroborated by an important scientific study. 

Steve Bolton, a Senior Hydrogeologist with Rockwater Pty Ltd, has been working closely with Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation to gather information for an academic thesis. Steve’s thesis explores the relationship and connectivity between our culturally significant water sites and presents findings on whether the water from jila and jumu is safe to drink. 

All up, Steve worked with Ngurrara Rangers and Traditional Owners for two years, starting in early December 2014. The start date was significant—Steve wanted to make sure his test result data captured the lowest seasonal water fluctuation, before the wet season really kicked into gear. Water was tested for major ions, nutrients and metals at five significant places: Wili, Kurnajarti, Purluwarla, Lumpu Lumpu and Lake Pirnini. Monitoring bores were also installed at Wili, Puluwala and Lumpu Lumpu, with the other water testing trips happening in May 2015, December 2015 and March 2016.  

Based on the results of these tests, Steve found that our jila and jumu are good to drink for most of the year. The only time of the year when the water doesn’t meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines for human consumption, is after a long, hot dry, when a lot of water evaporates. At this time, dissolved ions in the water become concentrated, giving the water a salty taste. Concentrations of dissolved metals and nutrients that naturally occur in the water may also become concentrated and exceed health guidelines. Traditionally, we tasted water to determine its quality, and a strange salty taste meant the water was no good to drink. 

Steve also recommended capping the artesian bore at Puluwala Jila. At the moment, the water continually flowing from the bore and evaporating, will eventually cause an increase in salinity at the jila. A cap would allow for the natural groundwater flow system to be restored. 

The other aspect of Steve’s research, was to create hydrogeological models to understand the connectivity between our significant water sites. Steve found that due to faults in the rocks beneath the earth, our groundwater is often split up, or divided. From this information, it’s possible to conclude that there’s not a lot of connectivity between the different jila in the study. 

Steve’s study is the first documentation of the variations in water levels and salinity of our cultural water assets over a set period of time. This is important for us, as we now have a benchmark to measure any impacts from mining, tourism or pastoral activities on our jila and jumu. We have a western study, that complements our traditional knowledge, which we can use for effective management and monitoring of our water. It’s significant that our jila tap one of the largest groundwater resources in Western Australia—The Canning Basin. Ngurrara country extends across the Basin, which holds a whopping 12 million gigalitres of water.

We’d like to thank Steve Bolton for his time and efforts on Ngurrara Country. His study is an important tool for us to understand water in a Western sense so that we can look after Ngurrara country in the decades to come! 

Ngurrara's now running our own rangers!

Peter Murray

yanunijarra aboriginal corporation

Joint press release from the Kimberley Land Council and Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation

Kimberley Land Council and Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) are pleased to announce a new partnership that will see YAC take on the management of its highly successful Indigenous Ranger Program.

The new contracting arrangement means that rather than the Kimberley Land Council managing and employing the Ngurrara rangers, this will now be done by YAC as it continues on its journey to independence. YAC is the Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) for the Ngurrara native title determinations.

KLC Deputy Chief Executive Officer Tyronne Garstone said the contract arrangement highlights the work KLC has been undertaking to build capacity in PBCs to manage business and take control of their futures.

He said the handover will occur in a staged process to ensure a smooth transition and the Ngurrara rangers will continue as strong members of the Kimberley Ranger Network.

“The KLC is very pleased to be supporting YAC to transition to full management of the Ngurrara ranger team,” Mr Garstone said. 

“We have worked with the Ngurrara people for over two decades, from prior to the recognition of native title, to the Ngurrara people’s native title claims that were first made in 1996, to their consent determination in 2007, setting up the fantastic Ngurrara rangers and continuing to provide assistance to the YAC PBC.

“Now we are seeing YAC take on the responsibility of the ranger program, which highlights the professionalism and capacity of the corporation to manage its operations and shape its future.

“This is an exciting time for the KLC as we work to build the capacity of PBCs across the Kimberley.”

YAC CEO Peter Murray has an intricate understanding of the complexities of managing a ranger program, having worked as a ranger, ranger coordinator, Indigenous Protected Area coordinator and now the CEO of an Aboriginal corporation.

YAC Chairperson Marmingee Hand said the transition of the ranger operations will fulfil the vision of the old people to take control of their future and look after country.

“The rangers will now be working for the PBC, showcasing what we do,” Marmingee said. “We are embedding our cultural ways with western ideals and transferring our cultural knowledge.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with the KLC and supporting one another.” 

Elder Amy Nugget works as a cultural adviser, accompanying the Ngurrara rangers on country and assisting with traditional knowledge.

“It is very important working on country and caring for the jilas in the desert,” Amy said.

“I am really pleased with how well the rangers are working and I am so happy that in the future I would like to return to my homelands to continue this important work on country.” 

Yanunijarra AGM Results

Peter Murray

Yanunijarra would like to extend a huge thank you to all outgoing directors for your work, your time and your effort in helping to shape the vision of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation. Last week, at our AGM out at Djugerari Community, we welcomed onboard some new directors, and welcomed back some old ones. The six new positions are now filled by the following: Hanson Boxer, Joseph Nugget, James Brown, Norah Gunyan ... and, Marmingee Hand and Peter Murray will hold their positions as Chairperson and CEO respectively

AGM Alert !

Peter Murray

It's on! The 2016 Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation AGM. This year, we'll be heading out to Djugerari Community for a start time of 8.30am on Tuesday 11th of October. The meeting will go for two days, and there'll be the usual updates, as well as the election of six new directors. Everyone is welcome, of course, and if you have any questions, drop into the YAC office. Hope to see you there!

Report from YAC's new Chairperson Marmingee Hand

Peter Murray

It’s a privilege to be elected as chairperson for Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation. It means some of our people have seen some positive qualities in my leadership, which is an honour.

My background has been mainly in education and I’ve worked across the whole spectrum, from primary to adult education. These days, my focus is encouraging girls from years 7 – 12 to be in engaged in their learning, to keep up their school attendance. I admire the young women of today, because they have to put up with so much in their young lives, there’s so much going on. It’s a reward to see the light bulbs switching on and the potential. But I think for all of our young people—both boys and girls—the challenge is in retaining the cultural connection to country and family.

Language and culture are very important to me and I hope to bring an emphasis on both in my new role as Chairperson of Yanunijarra. I also think good governance is crucial to the successful running of a corporation. It’s important to make clear decisions, to be fair and equitable, and to put in place good planning with measurable outcomes.

The great strength of Yanunijarra, is that we have had such strong cultural leadership and cultural advice from our old people. Just recently, we travelled to Kurlku in the Great Sandy Desert for the Ngurrara 2-Way Learning Cultural Camp. This camp involved young people from four schools in the Valley, old people and outside stakeholders, who all came together in the best interests of Ngurrara. This camp was important, because it created a classroom on country where young people could learn from old people.

The camp was about having people from Shell Australia who have sponsored the water monitoring project out on country, sharing the cultural way of working with the Ngurrara people.  The project has involved our rangers, Traditional Owners and our schools, and for five years now, we’ve been placing our footsteps side-by-side as part of this project. The water monitoring project is also helping our rangers have a better understanding of our  jilasand jumus, they are able tohelp scientists about our countrywith their traditional knowledge and understanding. Then Yanunijarra can make sustainable decisions regarding development on our country for future generations. The project combines Western science with the traditional knowledge of Ngurrara people, and is consistent with our belief that we need to walk in two worlds. 

I’m looking forward to working with all Yanunijarra directors and CEO to make sure that our people remain culturally strong, and also have the skills to participate in a Western wage economy.

I’m humbled to have been elected Chairperson and excited about the challenge ahead.