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A map showing the location of our Bunuba partnership.

Established: 2014
Partnership area: 650,000 ha / 6,500 km2
Partnership location: The Kimberley, North of Fitzroy Crossing, WA

Bunuba country is in the central-west Kimberley (WA). The town of Fitzroy Crossing, where most Bunuba people live, sits in the south-east corner, 400km inland from Broome.

The Fitzroy River winds through Bunuba Country. Photo BDAC.
The Fitzroy River winds through Bunuba Country. Photo BDAC.
From there the lands run north along Bandaral Ngarri (the Fitzroy River) to Jijidu (Dimond Gorge), then westward along Miluwindi (the King Leopold Ranges) as far as the Gibb River Road, south and west to Malaraba (the Erskine Range), and back to Dawadiya (Trig Hill) near Fitzroy Crossing.

It’s a rich and beautiful country. To the north the land is dominated by rugged sandstone, including the King Leopold Ranges. Running through centre are the limestone Napier Ranges in the western half and Oscar Ranges in the eastern half.

This band of limestone was once a coral reef when the ocean was high and marine fossils can still be seen in caves, tunnels, cliffs and gorges.

Freshwater Crocodiles and Swordfish are some of the many freshwater species on Bunuba Country. Photo BDAC.
Freshwater Crocodiles and Swordfish are some of the many freshwater species on Bunuba Country. Photo BDAC.
Hidden within are remnant rainforest patches with rare plants and animals, while vast grasslands and plains provide extensive hunting and gathering areas. The life giving waters of the mighty Fitzroy River, along with other smaller rivers and waterholes, run through providing habitat for creatures such as the gayi (Freshwater Crocodile), nyanyani (Sawfish) and jawiyiwiy or ngangu (Bull Shark).

The Bunuba people’s Native Title rights were recognised after a 13-year process in 2012 – they hold exclusive rights to 3,500km2.

On invitation from community leaders, we launched a partnership with the Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC) to help develop and implement their Jalangurru Muwayi (Healthy Country) Plan.

The Healthy Country Project

(Jalangurru Muwayi)

Healthy Country planning followed an internationally recognised process, based on the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation.

Healthy Country Planning. Photo BDAC.
Healthy Country Planning. Photo BDAC.
Between 2014 and 2017, a number of planning workshops were held on country allowing all Bunuba people to have a say.

Key elements discussed included a shared vision for the future, choosing conservation targets, defining success, developing strategies and identifying potential threats.

The results are recorded in the Jalangurru Muwayi Healthy Country Plan, which provides a coherent overview of how the Bunuba community sees its country as a whole, living, interconnected system, and spells out how it should be cared for.

Many partners

Bunuba Rangers. Photo BDAC.
Bunuba Rangers. Photo BDAC.
The Bunuba people have always been on the front foot in initiating relationships with others to help protect their country and culture. In addition to working with Bush Heritage and other environment groups (such as Environs Kimberley) they’ve:

  • worked for many years with Parks and Wildlife Service (PaWS) to manage the Geike Gorge and Windjana Gorge National Parks
  • created a unique educational partnership with Melbourne’s Wesley College – the Yiramalay Studio School on Yarranggi, providing education and cross cultural exchanges for both Kimberley and Wesley kids.
  • worked closely with scientists researching archaeology, animals, plants and rock art.

The Bunuba Rangers

Bunuba Rangers. Photo BDAC.
Bunuba Rangers. Photo BDAC.
The Bunuba Rangers, based in Fitzroy Crossing, are an independent group established by the Bunuba Dawangarri Aboriginal Corporation (BDAC). The Department of Parks and Wildlife funds the rangers to help manage significant central west Kimberley conservation reserves established on Bunuba country.

Bunuba Rangers are the main force carrying out the Jalangurru Muwayi Plan, with support from BDAC, partners and the wider Bunuba community.

Guided walks in Bunuba country

The many tourists visiting parks in Bunuba country presents opportuntities as well as challenges. One way to experience the wonders of the Kimberley and see the impact Aboriginal ranger programs are having in this part of Australia is through the program of Kimberley Country Guided Walks.

We understand and we see how we can make a difference, working with people we help them and we help ourselves while taking care of country.”
– Clive Aiken, Founding Bunuba Ranger Coordinator.

Culture and traditional knowledge

Bunuba Seasonal Calendar. Image BDAC.
Bunuba Seasonal Calendar. Image BDAC.
The Bunuba people have extended families, or clans, called Dawangarri. In the days before European settlement there were 18 Dawangarri, each with its own territory. Together they made up the Bunuba nation – separate groups of river, ranges, plains and fringing-desert people.

They would hunt and gather according to traditional seasons, for which animals and plants were important indications.

Bunuba bush medicine. Photo BDAC.
Bunuba bush medicine. Photo BDAC.
Bunuba people are also custodians of the nationally significant Jandamarra story.

Protecting their cultural history and recording and preserving language and traditions is a key priority in the Healthy Country Plan.

Archaeological work at Jumburrurru (Carpenter’s Gap) has shown Bunuba people have been on this land for at least 46,000 years. Through practising law and culture, as has been done here for around 2,000 generations, Bunuba people are keeping this country, with its animals, plants and spirits, alive and healthy, just as it keeps the Bunuba people alive and healthy.