Wunambal Gaambera People

We Wunambal Gaambera people are happy and proud to welcome visitors to our Uunguu – our living home.

Our Country, covering some 2.5 million hectares of mainland, islands and sea, lies on the northern coast of our Wanjina Wunggurr Community in the far north Kimberley (see map).

We have stayed connected to our ancestors’ Country for 40,000 years. In our Lalai belief, our Wanjina Wunggurr ancestors created Wunambal Gaambera Country.

Responsibility to look after our Country and culture has been passed to us.

Our Uunguu Ranger program is caring for Country through right-way fire, feral animal and weed control, visitor management, land and sea animal monitoring and looking after cultural sites.

We are working to make sure our languages and cultural knowledge are kept alive and our people are living back on Country with good jobs.

In 2011, Australian law recognised our unbroken connection, calling us Wanjina Wunggurr (Uunguu) common law native title-holders, but we call ourselves Wunambal Gaambera people.

Wunambal Gaambera (Uunguu) people, Wororra (Dambimangari) people and Ngarinyin (Willinggin) people share common Wanjina Wunggurr ancestors. Together we make up the Wanjina Wunggurr Community, with each group managing its own Country.

To read the Federal Court’s full native title determination, click here.

To meet some of us, click to enlarge images below...

 

Our Land - Wunambal Gaambera Country

The Wanjina Wunggurr (Uunguu) native title determinations recognise that we hold exclusive rights to 90 percent of our land and islands, and have shared native title in the sea. Exclusive native title means that for the land shown red on the map, we Wunambal Gaambera people and no one else in the world have the rights to possess, occupy, use and enjoy and make all the decisions about these rights. This is the security our Elders and Grandfathers devoted their lives to establish a foundation upon which we can build our Wunambal Gaambera futures.

In our Wanjina Wunggurr Law, while each Wunambal Gaambera family group (clan) speaks for their Graa (country belonging to each clan), we collectively make decisions about our Country. We transact our land business and interests through the Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation (ICN 3154) that we incorporated in 1998.

Wunambal Gaambera History

Wunambal Gaambera history goes right back to the Lalai or creation when our Wanjina and Wunggurr creators made our Wunambal Gaambera Country as well as Dambimangari and Willinggin countries. In the Lalai, Wanjina and Wunggurr created all things in our Country and gave us our languages, Law and customs to live together and with our neighbours.

Our Elders, grandparents and great grandparents, in their younger years, lived traditional lives on their Graa. All the things they needed for their daily subsistence - such as food, utensils, tools, weapons, shelter, transport, medicines, music, art and their cultural and spiritual well-being - were mostly found in their Graa or they shared with neighbour Graa or exchanged (the Wunan system) with tribes outside of Wunambal Gaambera Country to places as far away as Walmajarri in the desert.

They wrote our Uunguu Plants and Animals Book (Karadada et al 2011) as their traditional knowledge legacy to us today and our future generations. For more information and to buy online, click here.

Outsiders

From our stories, some of the first outsiders to mix with our Wunambal Gaambera ancestors were Indonesian Makassan fishermen more than two centuries ago, coming each year in their perahus (traditional outrigger boats) during the monsoon season to collect trepang (beche-de-mer) from our reefs and set up camps on our coast to dry their catch before heading back on the south-east winds. Some things our people got from them were iron for implements and improved canoe design.

In the early 1900s, our parents and grandparents encountered Europeans on Country. Beachcombers, explorers, pearlers and an experimental peanut farmer set up camps for a time, the most notable at Kingana in lower Vansittart Bay. At some of these places our people traded dingo pelts and trepang for supplies, gained some work and new experiences.

With World War 2 looming, our people were relocated from their Graa to mission stations at Kalumburu and Kunmunya (and eventually Mowanjum at Derby). Mineral exploration activity in the period 1960-80 on the Mitchell Plateau has provided road and air access for Kandiwal families to live on their Graa.

Our Future

Our present day Wunambal Gaambera families, with a population of over 600, are dispersed in Kalumburu, Kandiwal, Mowanjum (Derby) and other Kimberley towns. Our communal need and common goal is to build our wealth, resources and capacity to move back on Country so that we can be secure on our Country, look after our Country and keep our culture strong to pass on to future generations.

Wunambal Gaambera Country is the only place in the world where our life and culture are forever anchored to our ancestors. We are implementing our Wunambal Gaambera Healthy Country Plan to help us meet the challenges we face to live on our Country, to look after our Country, skill our workforce, educate our children and secure our wealth and well-being so that we can enjoy and use the two worlds - traditional and modern - that we live in today.