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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. 

Ngurrara Cultural Camp - black soil, spear-making & stories about water!

Peter Murray

It rained out at Kurlku when Shell Australia visited for our cultural camp in May. Nothing too serious where we were camped—just enough to take the bite out of the heat and make for three nights of good, deep sleeps on country. The road back to Fitzroy on the Friday was a little tricky, with boggy black soil, but on the whole, the Ngurrara 2-Way Learning Cultural Camp was a success. 

There were a couple of key purposes for the camp. The first was to celebrate the Shell 2-Way Learning Project, which has been running now across different phases for over five years. The project’s about water monitoring, and Shell has been sponsoring our rangers to check the water at our significant jilas. They’re gathering baseline data against which we can measure any impacts on our water from development, climate change or feral animals. The rangers have also been running workshops in the schools.

As part of the project, we’re hoping to encourage a two way learning about water that encompasses traditional knowledge about water from our old people, and western scientific knowledge. The camp was a space where old people could pass on some of these stories to the young people, including at two significant jilas. All visitors were welcomed to country at Purluwarla, and then travelled on to Pirnirni, the site where the Ngurrara Great Sandy Desert Canvas was painted. 

Knowledge exchange also happened during the workshops. Students from Yakanarra Community School, Fitzroy Crossing District High, Wulungarra Community School and Djugerari Remote Community School had a go at spear and boomerang making, painting, traditional hair dying, and the sampling of traditional food, like the bush onion and bush coconut. 

Yanunijarra CEO, Peter Murray, says, being out on country—away from the distractions of television, internet and video games—meant the young people could properly engage with these activities, on their traditional lands. 

“When you’re running workshops on country, you notice the difference with the kids. They’re motivated, connected and there’s been no bad behaviour. We had multiple organisations at the event, all working together for the benefit of Ngurrara people,” Mr Murray says.

The camp was also a gesture of appreciation to Shell Australia, who have, over a number of years now, sponsored the 2-Way Learning Project, and who sponsored the camp. 

The Shell mob said something key to their business was really understanding local communities and sharing mutual respect. They hoped to pass this knowledge on to their colleagues. 

VP Production Manager David Bird, says, “In the corporate world, there can be a lack of awareness and appreciation of indigenous culture. We like our employees to be ambassadors, demonstrating respect where appropriate … [and] we’re hoping to develop a common language with Ngurrara Traditional Owners, so we can both move forward together.” 

Senior Exploration Geoscientist Jason Roberts agrees, adding that respect is also crucial to a long-term relationship.  

“I think it’s been an absolute success story … [On our side] it’s about honesty, integrity and respect. Our long-term relationship attests to that level of respect,” Mr Roberts says.

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation would like to thank Shell Australia and all other stakeholders who supported the camp, including: The Yiriman Project, 
Eight Mile Catering, the Ngurrara Rangers, KRED Enterprises, the Kimberley Land Council, Mangkaja Arts, Ngurrara Canvas Committee, Nindilingarri Cultural Health, Garnduwa, Marra Worra Worra and all Traditional Owners and schools.

Ngurrara Ranger on board

Peter Murray

Ranahl Yungabun, skin name Jakarra, is a young Ngurrara Ranger of the Great Sandy Desert. He's been working for over two years as a ranger, since the age of nineteen.

He speaks the Walmajarri language and has connection to the Wankatjunka/Walmajarri clan, southeast of Fitzroy Crossing, and lives in Djugerari Community.

Going out on country, seeing different places and meeting other people, is what Ranahl loves about being a Ngurrara Ranger. He has achieved many things as a ranger in fencing, quad bike training, water testing on country and also weed training at Broome TAFE. He's also learnt of the two ways of living; in a science-based western world and a traditional knowledge world.

The message he would like to send out to his generation is, “Come along on trips with the Ngurrara rangers and if you are interested in what we do for and on our country, then join the team.”

He would love to share some of his favourite bush tucker such as the bush turkey, kangaroo, emu and the black-headed python, and also show you how and where to hunt good tucker in and around his country.

YAC's CEO On creating a sustainable future for Ngurrara people

Peter Murray

Prospects are looking reasonably good for Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) in 2016, according to the Chief Executive Officer Peter Murray. Despite a downturn in the mining industry and a slowing up in operations on country for staff and Traditional Owners, Mr Murray says, “We are still on schedule and headed toward a good year. We are working hard on developing new employment opportunities to create a sustainable future for all communities across the Great Sandy Desert.” 

Yanunijarra as coordinated a comprehensive heritage clearance process with Ngurrara Traditional Owners to conditionally approve the HESS 3D Seismic* program. 

One of the heritage clearance conditions is that two Ngurrara Traditional Owners must be present as cultural heritage monitors while HESS is performing exploration activities. These monitors make sure HESS follows all heritage clearance conditions. 

As the program progresses, there will be 4WD vehicles and seismic trucks onsite conducting research and determining what lies beneath the earth’s surface. During this exploration stage, there will be cultural monitors and Traditional Owners on board. Our Ngurrara rangers will also be conducting fee for service work, doing fire management and water testing. 

Yanunijarra also has a joint venture arrangement with Indigenous Construction Resource Group (ICRG). If successful in the tender to deliver civil works for HESS’s Seismic Program, then there may be employment opportunities for Ngurrara people ranging from civil works, line crew workers and catering. 

Yanunijarra / Ngurrara has come a long way since we were given our Native Title land back in 2007. Much of the Great Sandy Desert has remained untouched by the resource boom, and Mr Murray is adamant that no work should go ahead without the approval of Traditional Owners. 

“Traditional Owners are taking small steps to ensure that the right decisions about country are made, based on our stories and our cultural sites.”

Yanunijarra is continuing to investigate other possibilities for revenue, including housing, community stores and pastoral stations, so that all of our people across the Great Sandy Desert benefit. 

* A ‘seismic’ is an energy wave that travels through the Earth’s layers that gives out low-frequency acoustic energy. It is the only technique that can provide clear images of complex geological structures under the earth. It could support drilling programs and in some cases detect deep iron ore deposits.

Ranger Story

Peter Murray

Ranger Update  

Being a ranger comes with the big responsibility of looking after country. Over the last year, our ranger team has grown to twelve people, with eight rangers funded by the Kimberley Land Council, and four new positions funded through the Green Army. We have ranger coordinators for both men and women’s groups, Frankie McCarthy and Chantelle Murray, and also a Healthy Country Coordinator, Brendan Fox. This year, we’ve been undertaking a range of conservation and land management activities.

Head Women’s Ranger Coordinator, Chantelle Murray, says she’s proud to be leading a strong team that’s committed to caring for country. “Over the last year, our capacity has really grown. We have a dedicated team of men and women that are making sure Ngurrara country is looked after and protected in accordance with our cultural protocols. In addition to our day-to-day land management activities—like fire and feral weed management—we’re also exploring ways for the rangers to set up local enterprises.”

Some of the enterprise projects under consideration include selling camel humps for biodiesel, establishing a nursery and selling seedlings and producing incense from the wood of the konkerberry tree.

The rangers are involved in a number of other big activities. Plans are still progressing to set up a Canning Stock Route base camp. The idea is to transport a donga onto the Stock Route and to have a rotating roster of rangers at the base. Rangers will also take part in construction work to develop the area, with support from the Kimberley Training Institute (KTI). This is important so we can enforce the permit system already in place, control access, increase visitor engagement and to educate visitors on country.

Two Way Learning Project

Another major project for us has been the Shell Two Way Learning Project involving rangers, Traditional Owners and school students. As part of this project, we’re looking after and monitoring ground water in the Canning Basin, in a way that combines western science and traditional knowledge. Participants match stories and knowledge of jilas (waterholes) with scientific data collected by using water monitoring and sampling techniques.

So far, Wili, Pirrini, Purluwala, Lumpu Lumpu, Crossland 3 and Kurnajarti were all tested for salt and fresh water, and we found out that they are all safe to drink from. At Wili, Pirrini, Purluwala, Lumpu Lumpu, we recorded information with data loggers to determine water flow and direction beneath the surface. At Wili, Lumpu Lumpu and Pirrini we’ve set up weather stations and we are also looking at installing another weather station on Well 49 at the base camp towards the end of 2015. Currently, the rangers are responsible for monitoring bores and barometer pressure, water monitoring evaluation and installing weather stations. All information recorded must be reported to the Traditional Owners and people of Ngurrara country. This is an important project for Yanunijarra to oversee, because it allows us to monitor climate change impacts and we can use it as a management tool to inform future conservation activities. 

There have been a number of positive outcomes from the Shell Two Way Learning Project. It’s providing opportunities in both employment and education. So far, all 12 rangers have gained skills and experiences in completing Certificate II and III in Conservation and Land Management—and part of this involves undertaking water sampling and testing. We’re also hoping to increase school attendance by involving young people with the project. We’re teaching about water monitoring in schools and providing school scholarships and awards for students for good attendance.

Cissy Gore Birch has recently come onboard as the Two Way Learning Cultural Education Officer and she’s excited about the project’s potential. “This is a project that can go a long way. We’re working on a new and innovative way of doing things and we’ve already been in schools and worked with around 120 kids at Fitzroy Crossing District High School and Bayulu Community School. We want this to be a project that works for us, and we want it to be sustainable.”

Yanunijarra aims to be involved at all levels when it comes to decision making on country. We will uphold the values of our old people and the Traditional Owners, and balance the needs of current and future generations to look after country in a sustainable way. 

New Chairman

Peter Murray

Terrence Jack is a proud Ngurrara man from the Great Sandy Desert and he’s been elected as the new Chairman for Yanunijarra Aboriginal Cooperation.

“I walk in two worlds. I’m from the younger generation so I bring a unique perspective to this role. My vision is to protect country and our traditional values, while also creating a bright future for our children. I think we need to look at how Ngurrara people can best live in both worlds. I’ve been inspired by my elders, family and other indigenous leaders. Without them, I wouldn’t be in the position to help shape the future for Ngurrara country and people. In five years time, I would like to see more opportunities for young people and to see young people involved in employment, development and supporting one another to create a better future. I feel very happy and proud to be working for my people, elders, Traditional Owners and especially our children.”

Terrence Jack

Yanunijarra AGM wrap!

Peter Murray

The Yanunijarra AGM meeting was held on the 18th-20th August 2015 at Yakanarra Community, 120km south of Fitzroy Crossing. There were about 60 attendees at the meeting, who came to help shape the future for Ngurrara country, communities and people.

During the meeting, 4 new directors and a new chairman were elected. The new directors are Beryl Dickens, Irene Jimbidie, Jennifer Thomas and George Jubadah, and the new chairman is Terrance Jack. May we thank and farewell the former chairman, Ronnie Jimbidee, and the outgoing directors, for all their hard work, effort and contributions.

Chief Operations Officer, Peter Murray, says that Yanunijarra is committed to good governance, and to following both cultural and mainstream protocols. 

“Everyone was comfortable that we followed the correct process and were happy with the decision about the new directors. On the board, I think we have a good balance of directors with a range of skills and expertise,” Mr Murray says.

During the AGM, there were talks and discussions about business, employment, development, ranger establishment and ways to look after country. There was also a presentation, organised by KRED Enterprises, from an independent expert panel on fracking. The panel of scientists gave Traditional Owners information about the potential impacts of fracking in the Canning Superbasin. Mr Murray said overall, the meeting was informative and engaging with a good mixture of presentations from all parts of the Ngurrara community. 

“The main highlight was getting everything done in regards to reports from rangers and community members. We have many strong programs happening on Ngurrara country and the PBC wants to be a part of supporting those programs that are creating positive social and economic change. I think everyone was happy with the presentation of the AGM and satisfied with the results,” My Murray says. 

The Ngurrara rangers were a great help, collecting firewood, setting up the camping area, and helping to serve food. Traditional dancing was held on the last night, which brought our community together, and had many participants. 

Our AGM has been at Yakanarra for the last two years and we’d like to thank the community for hosting us. Next year, we might try a different venue, maybe closer to town so that we’re between the river and desert. By doing this, hopefully all of our PBC members will participate, get more involved and learn about what projects are happening on country with Ngurrara people. We believe it’s important that young people and old people are all part of the process of working toward our vision for Ngurrara. By building ourselves up and standing together we are strong.  

Women's Cultural Camp

Peter Murray

The Ngurrara Women's cultural camp was organised by the Ngurrara rangers and was held at Kurlku, located 120km south of Fitzroy Crossing. Around eighty women travelled at the great swanky desert to attend the camp, from Broome, One Arm Point, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing. The purpose of the camp was to share knowledge---to create a space where young girls and young mothers could learn from the elderly ladies and Traditional owners of Ngurrara. there was a focus on womens health and well-being and workshops FASD, suicide prevention, motherhood, healthy food, social enterprise, diabetes and empowering communities for everyone. Here's a teaser of some of things we got up to!

Notice of Yanunijarra AGM

Peter Murray

Are you a member or director of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation? If so, we have our Annual General Meeting next week at Yakanarra Community. The meeting kicks off on Tuesday the 18th August and runs through until Thursday the 20th August. The meeting will start at 8.30am and wind up around 4.30pm each day. For further information and travel arrangements, please contact Peter Murray on 0418 961 951 (peter[at] or Albert Cox on 08 9194 01 56 (albert.cox[at] We hope to see you there!


Peter Murray

Meeting 1

When:   19th August 2015, 10am-3pm

Where:   Derby (TBC)

Meeting 2

When:   20th August 2015, 9am- 3pm

Where:   Yakanarra (Bush Meeting)

Who:   All members of the Native Title groups who are members of the Ambooriny Burru Foundation which includes

  • Nykina Mangala
  • Ngurrara
  • Karajarri
  • Bardi Jawi
  • Yi- Martuwarra Ngurrara
  • Tjurabalan
  • Jaru
  • Koongie Elvire

What:   The purpose of these meetings is to give Traditional Owners information on the potential impacts of fraccing activities in the Canning Superbasin. The meeting will be facilitated by KRED Enterprises Pty Limited and will include presentations from an expert panel consisting of

  • Daniel Tormey
  • Jenny Stauber
  • Paul Howe
  • Manny Haghighi

Note that here are no current proposals to fracc on any Ambooriny Burru's members' country.

Please note that this is the same meeting at both venues. Please contact Kaupa Pitt or Joanine Howard on 9192 8782 if you require fuel assistance. Lunch will be provided on meeting days. Any legal questions should be directed to Rob Houston or Megan Highfold on (08) 9192 8782.


A map of rich desert stories

Peter Murray

The Ngurrara Great Sandy Desert Canvas is a vibrant and powerful map of Country quite unlike any other. Forget the one dimensional simplicity of road maps, topographical maps or resource maps—this canvas was originally painted to support the Ngurrara native title claim in 1997 and it contains stories and information about the desert: about water, plants, songs and ceremonies. 

Apart from a few rare exhibitions, including at the National Museum of Australia, the 10 metres by 8 metres canvas has been stored in a box in the archives of Mangkaja Arts Resource Agency in Fitzroy Crossing, WA. 

But all this is about to change. 

Terry Murray, a curator with Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre (KALACC) and the Deputy Chairperson of Mangkaja Arts, was the youngest artist to work on the canvas. With involvement from Mangkaja Arts and Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, he is working with the other artists and authorised family members of deceased artists toward forming a management committee. The committee will then set a clear path forward to preserving, exhibiting and sharing the impressive canvas. 

Mr Murray says it’s time to develop a vision for the canvas that will benefit all Ngurrara people—young and old. “We’re hoping the canvas can bring Ngurrara people together and that we can use it to celebrate our culture. This canvas, this map, is about our family connections, our connection to country and our shared history. It belongs to everyone,” Mr Murray says.

Joseph (Japarti) Nugget was one of the senior artists who worked on the canvas. He says, “There are special icons painted on this canvas. It shows particular places for people to understand the importance of country and the connection with land and culture.”

Tommy (Ngarraltja) May, another senior artist who worked on the canvas, says, “Everything on this canvas is important.” He painted a Dreamtime story based on how two men met during law time. The story was about getting taught by the elders to pass on the knowledge of their journey. 

It’s a moving, meaningful document, and not just for the Ngurarra painters and people. 

“A couple of years ago, when we were in Perth, a young couple approached the canvas. They looked at it for a while and then they both started to cry. We were actually shocked by the power of it. The power of the layers and what these layers contain.”

Mr Murray says that once the management committee has been formalised there are plans in the pipeline for the canvas to be exhibited in other parts of Australia. There are also plans for it to be used locally, as a teaching tool for school students, and as a draw card for tourists visiting the Fitzroy Valley. 

“It’s been great to have Mangkaja as a safekeeping place but now it’s time to bring the canvas out of its box. It’s so dense and it’s so rich and it’s a way of bringing Ngurrara people together, so we can stand strong and united.”

Keep your eyes on for more updates on what next for the Ngurrara canvas!

Stories, science and the way water moves in the desert

Peter Murray

Some magical thinking has gone into putting together the Shell Two-Way Learning Project. It’s a water-monitoring project involving Traditional Owners, Rangers and school students, and it aims to match traditional knowledge about water with Western science.

Peter Murray, Chief Operations Officer of Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation, says the findings are valuable, should there be future exploration or developments on Ngurrara country. 

“It’s crucial we understand the way water is connected, the way water moves and the way water is changing in the desert. The findings from this project and this knowledge will help us protect Ngurrara country,” Mr Murray says.

Already, the Ngurrara Rangers have been working at a number of jilas (waterholes) in The Great Sandy Desert, using instruments to measure water levels and gauge the direction of water flow. Each jila has its own traditional story and is connected to another jila through story and song—this project, uses Western science as an alternate way of understanding this connection.

In addition, the project aims to create and provide unique opportunities for students to reach their true potential in the field of science or on country as rangers. The students are mostly from the Walmajarri clan and are enrolled at Djugareri, Yakanarra, Wulungarra and Fitzroy Crossing High. Given the involvement of Rangers and Traditional Owners, there’s also a unique opportunity for intergenerational teaching, and exposing students to potential career paths post-school.

Yanunijarra Aboriginal Corporation believes it’s crucial that traditional stories are passed on to our young people and that our kids have the opportunity to learn and work on country.