The battle to protect indigenous rock art in the Kimberley and Pilbara has been boosted on two fronts.
The State Government announced it would set aside almost half the Burrup Peninsula as a national park, to be called Murujuga, and a leading world expert in indigenous archaeology has been appointed to the inaugural Kimberley
Foundation’s Ian Potter Chair in rock art at the University of Western Australia.
Professor Peter Veth, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the London Society of Antiquaries, will be based at UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management. He will work in collaboration with traditional
owners and their representative bodies to help document and study the indigenous rock art in the Kimberley.
The chair is funded by a $2 million gift from the not-for profit Kimberley Foundation Australia. The amount includes
$1.5 million from the Melbourne-based Ian Potter Foundation, a foundation set up by the late Australian businessman
Sir Ian Potter, and a $500,000 contribution from global energy company INPEX.
The company is developing the Ichthys liquefied natural gas project in the Browse Basin, about 180km off the Kimberley coast.
UWA has provided matching funding of $2 million and the State Government, through the Department of Indigenous
Affairs, has provided a further $300,000 to help manage ongoing research and teaching at UWA.
Professor Veth has worked extensively as a researcher, advisor and consultant on indigenous rock art and heritage
throughout the south-east Kimberley, Pilbara, Western Desert and Goldfields area. UWA vice-chancellor Paul
Johnson said Professor Veth’s appointment put UWA at the centre of leading research into one of the world’s most significant collections, likely dating back 35,000 years.
The Kimberley Foundation Australia seeks to promote scientific research into the rock art of the Kimberley and, in conjunction with the indigenous people of the region, ensure it is preserved and recognised for its national and international significance.
Environment Minister Bill Marmion said areas of Murujuga with the highest concentration of rock art would get extra protection. He said the national park, the State’s 100th, would conserve 44 per cent of the peninsula, almost
Non-industrial lands would be transferred to the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation as freehold under an historic native title agreement.