Elders and cultural representatives from Murujuga will travel to Sydney this month to showcase the significance of Murujuga to more than 1,500 international cultural heritage experts gathering for ICOMOS GA2023.
ICOMOS – the International Council on Monuments and Sites – is the global organisation that serves as the principal advisory body on cultural heritage to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
MAC will participate in both the General Assembly and Scientific Symposium, which address the themes of ‘Heritage changes: Resilience – Responsibility – Rights – Relationships’.
The Murujuga Cultural Landscape, comprising 100,000ha of remote land and sea country in the remote Pilbara, has been nominated by Australia for World Heritage listing, with evaluation by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre expected to commence next year.
Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC), representing Traditional Owner and Custodians for Murujuga, developed the nomination in partnership with the Western Australian Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, commencing in 2018.
Comments by MAC Chairperson Peter Hicks:
“An important thing to us about the World Heritage nomination is that it has been driven by Ngarda-Ngarli and reflects our drive to care for country by having Ngarda-Ngarli decision-making and governance at the heart of management of Murujuga.
“Murujuga has worldwide fame for its petroglyphs (rock art engravings), of which there are estimated to be 1 to 2 million motifs.
“Yet just as important to Aboriginal people are Murujuga’s living cultural traditions, which have sustained Ngarda-Ngarli through 50,000 years or more of human occupation, including through periods of great environmental change and sea level rise, and which guide us how to be today.
“Our Elders want to share their stories and knowledge of Murujuga because they decided that the best way to protect culture is to share it – this event seems a great opportunity to do so.”
Comments by MAC Deputy Chairperson Vince Adams:
“Everything you see at Murujuga – the hills and creeks, the trees, the spiritual places, the rock art and the camping places – it is all part of our story here.
“Our ancestors have been looking after this country since the world was soft, and everything you see here – that is all here because we have been keeping it strong with our Lore that was put in place for country and the Law that was given to Aboriginal people to do.
“From when it was a desert, all the way to what it looks like now. Country has been made strong because we had the knowledge in our Lore and Law of how to look after it all along, even when it changed.
“Our ancestors gave us this knowledge of country. They taught us everything is connected.
“They gave us the responsibility to care for it and to pass on that knowledge to our children.
“Murujuga is a significant place for Aboriginal people across the Pilbara and beyond. It is the starting place for some of our song lines.
“The songlines describe landmarks and events that occurred during ngurra nyujunggamu (when the world was ‘soft’). They connect to important inland sites, such as Uluru and some of them extend across to the east coast of Australia.
“There are songlines that our Elders share today that date back to the time before sea levels rose and turned the hills and valleys of Murujuga into submerged landscapes and the islands of the Dampier Archipelago today.
“For us, as Ngarda-Ngarli, we hope by sharing knowledge and educating people, we can fulfil our responsibilities to care for our country going into the future.”