Murujuga, also known as the Burrup Peninsula, is home to one of the
largest collections of rock art in the world. The petroglyphs are of immense
cultural and spiritual significance to Aboriginal people, and of equally
immense national and international archaeological and heritage value.
The Murujuga is a sacred place for five local Indigenous groups: the
Ngarluma, the Mardudhunera, Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo, the Yaburara, and the Yindjibarndi.
The area contains dreaming sites, ceremonial sites, shell middens, quarries,
standing stones and burial grounds. The Murujuga is described as a place of
worship and understanding where stories and law are written through the
petroglyphs and the stone. Aboriginal people throughout the Pilbara believe that
the petroglyphs are the work of creation spirit-beings known as Marrga who
formulated the rules of social conduct for humans to follow. The petroglyphs
are a permanent visual reminder of how the law should be followed, and are
places of continuing spiritual power.
The petroglyph collection which includes the earliest known depiction of
a human face, documents human presence in the area over an estimated 45,000
year timespan—the longest continuous production of rock art in the world. It
includes images of extinct mega-fauna, Tasmanian tigers, hunting traditions,
and mathematical and geometric forms. The collection also documents changes in
the way humans reflected their presence in the landscape and their cultural
practices over time. The petroglyphs reflect changes in environmental
conditions with early artwork depicting terrestrial fauna and artwork from the
Holocene period including images of marine fauna such as turtles, and fish.
The Australian Heritage Council reported in 2011 that the rock art collection
represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and is one of the most
exciting and significant collections of rock engravings in the world.
The committee recognises and acknowledges the vast cultural and
historical values of the rock art of the Burrup Peninsula and is of the view
that it is critical that the petroglyphs should be protected and conserved for current
and future generations.
The committee acknowledges the substantial amount of work contained in
this report and the information and opinions it contains. Senators have reached
differing views on the issues presented and these will be outlined in
additional comments. The committee thanks all those who participated in this inquiry.
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