Aboriginal History and Culture
The NAR is the traditional land of two Aboriginal groups, the Noongar and Yamaji people. The geographic boundary between these groups is indistinct, but the cultural boundary is clearly defined through language and cultural rites. Yamaji (also spelled Yamatji) people are the traditional owners of land and coastal waters to the north and Noongar people are the traditional owners of land to the south. There are at least six distinct Yamaji language groups and at least two Noongar language groups. Aboriginal people have a historical and spiritual attachment to natural resources.
The NAR forms a culturally and environmentally significant part of the traditional lands of both the Yamaji and Noongar people. Aboriginal mythological creation stories are based around the Wagyl (Noongar) and Bimara (Yamaji). These are the names of the “rainbow snake” that, according to Aboriginal mythology, shaped the landscape and created plants, animals and humans.
Aboriginal people have the oldest living cultural history in the world, dating back to at least 50,000 years and some argue closer to 65,000 years. Around 600 different clan groups or ‘nations’ existed around Australia prior to European settlement, many with their own different culture and beliefs.
The area between Green Head and Jurien Bay has the largest number of Aboriginal midden deposits in the Southwest Australia.There is evidence of Noongar and Yamaji people occupying various parts of the coast for extensive periods of time. Stone artefacts have been found in caves in the Jurien Bay region, and the area between Greenhead and Jurien Bay has the largest number of deposits in the Southwest Australia. Coastal dunes throughout the region were also used as burial sites, and skeletal remains have been exposed by dune blowouts. The mouths of rivers and estuaries tend to be particularly significant, especially Bowes River. Changes in tenure, management and development in the coastal zone should protect the environmental, cultural, spiritual and historic values of these areas (NACC, 2005).
A timeline of historical events of the Mid-West can be found on the Bundiyarra website.
Dreaming stories are used to pass on important knowledge, cultural values and belief systems to later generations. Aboriginal people use song, dance, painting and storytelling to express these dreaming stories, creating a rich cultural heritage.
Aboriginal people all over Australia have used astronomy to gauge seasons and management of natural resources. Aboriginal people interpret the space between the stars rather than the location of the stars, as in western astronomy.
In the NAR the Emu in the Sky constellation is used to gauge when emus are mating, laying their eggs and when it is an appropriate time to collect eggs.
Connection to Country
The word ‘country’, when used in an Aboriginal context represents a specific part of the environment that is connected to the person through ancestral custodianship. Connection to country is an important part of an Aboriginal person’s identity and their spiritual attachment to the land and the natural environment.
It makes you feel like you’ve come home. It is home. It is barna, which is ground we belong to.Coralie Dann, Yamaji Elder. Taken from Marlaguwinmanha, Returning back to the bush 2016. Produced by Chris Lewis
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Traditional ecological knowledge is the knowledge that Aboriginal people have of their land and ecological processes, gained from living and moving about the country for thousands of years. Scientists and land managers are increasingly recognising the importance of this information to managing the natural environment and are working with Traditional Owners to incorporate this information into NRM planning and management.
Aboriginal People Working on Country
Creating opportunities for Aboriginal people to work on country is one of the core goals of this strategy. This need came up repeatedly throughout the community engagement process and organisations like NACC and Central Regional TAFE are actively seeking to make this happen.
NACC’s Prison Inmates Program engages inmates in NRM, undertaking biodiversity conservation and Aboriginal Heritage Site maintenance. Program participants work towards Certificate II accreditation in Conservation and Land Management from TAFE. Over 40 Aboriginal people have participated in this program to date.
Regional Aboriginal Green Army and Ranger teams are empowering Aboriginal people to care for country. Participants undertake environmental projects around the NAR, combining traditional ecological knowledge with science-based NRM practices.