The Gija and Jaru people are the Traditional Custodians of Purnululu National Park.
Local Aboriginal people maintain a strong connection to Purnululu’s ancient landscape. There is a continual connection and association from the dreamtime through to now which is expressed through stories, songs, art and visits to country. Local people continue to use resources in Purnululu that have sustained their lives for thousands of years. These are mainly spiritual resources which are deeply important.
The local Aboriginal Gija community of Wurreranginy (Frog Hollow) is situated to the north west of Purnululu National Park. The Purnululu Aboriginal Community School is situated here and provides quality education for years K-10 for local families. The school includes lessons in traditional language and culture as well as equipping students with skills to engage in both western and Aboriginal society. The school was originally in the national park at Kawarre and used to operate between the 2 campuses; Wurreranginy in the wet season and Kawarre in the Dry season. Ten Aboriginal education workers are employed here at the school.
Aboriginal people have lived in this part of Australia for more than 20,000 years. The traditional lifestyle changed when the first colonial explorers, led by Alexander Forrest, came to the Kimberley in 1879. They were searching for mineral resources and land for grazing stock. They found gold in Halls Creek in 1885, with Western Australia’s first gold rush occurring soon after. Later pastoralists arrived with huge herds of cattle, setting the foundation for the cattle industry that continues in the region today.
Life changed for the Aboriginal people but their strong connection to country remains. Some of Australia’s most famous Aboriginal artists come from this country. Rover Thomas and Queenie McKenzie (now both deceased) painted of this land and the Warmun art centre is a creative hub for contemporary Aboriginal art.
You can read more about Warmun Art Centre here.