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Burrup (Murujuga) Heritage Tour 2008

Burrup/Murujuga Convergence 2007

The Burrup (Murujuga) is the largest and possibly the oldest rock art precinct in the world. The area is beyond value and as well as being of great archaeological, cultural and artistic merit, it is a storehouse of knowledge and memory. The place is of great significance to indigenous people of the region.

A dedicated team of professionals and scientists from Friends of Australian Rock Art (FARA) hosted a visit to the Burrup in mid July. Our group was accompanied by expert archaeologists and guides.

Here are some quotes from those who took part in the Burrup convergence:

    - “Truly enlightening”

    - “The scale of the landscape, the industry and its proximity to the rock art, has shocked me to the core”

    - “I found the intrusion of industry in this place particularly upsetting, it increased my sadness and my empathy for the indigenous people of the region”

It was indeed a very moving place to visit. The Burrup had a powerful impact on the group, a journey back to deep time, it bonded us closely.

Expert archaeologists and guides spoke about the rock art as we stared back into faces carved thousands of years ago. We visited many individual carvings and marveled at the artistic and technical brilliance, the diversity and quantity of what we saw.

There was also business to be done. We were invited to visit the Woodside Visitor Centre located at the Woodside Burrup Plant where the company’s representatives, Warren Fish and Meath Hammond, gave a presentation to the group. A vigorous discussion followed covering future development of the site and the associated cultural heritage issues. At a separate venue the group heard a presentation from Ian Walker, the Karratha Manager of the Department of Environment and Conservation, about conservation and management plans for the Burrup.

The social highlight of the trip was the lunch meeting with the local indigenous community from Roebourne who greeted us with great warmth. Ngarluma-yinjibarndi activist Robyn Churnside and Ngarluma artist Loreen Samson, addressed the group. Robyn spoke with a gentle beauty in words of wisdom about the importance of place and knowledge. There was great enthusiasm about Loreen’s artwork and a number of paintings were collected for the Burrup benefit art auction in Fremantle.

The group, in continuing to raise awareness about the destruction of the Burrup Rock Art, conducted a number of ‘Stand up for the Burrup’ demonstrations. We all found the most moving of the ‘stand ups’ was with the indigenous people from Roebourne. Other actions included the creation of a large ‘Stand up for the Burrup’ banner and the installation of public signage at rock art access points on the Burrup and Woodside’s Pluto Site B.

Jeannine Gan (FARA), who organized the convergence trip to the Burrup, says

“All aspects of the programme were intended to provoke further thought about what is right and what is wrong for the Burrup. As individuals, the challenge about what we accept and what we choose to ignore, is always present. The devaluation of indigenous culture and cultural heritage is just one example of where the notion of personal responsibility applies. It has been amazing to see the influence that the Burrup has had on the people in our convergence group, I think it is the kind of place that is very difficult to stop thinking about, even long after you have left it”.
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