GARNKINY AND GOORLABAL
The country of internationally renowned Gija artists Mabel Juli and the late Mr R. Peters has been damaged and is under threat.
Recent mining exploration on Gija country in the East Kimberley has caused Traditional Owners great distress and anger. The destruction of culturally significant sites at Jawaren by Kimberley Granite Holdings (KGH) was desecration in Gija law and in clear breach of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972. The area is registered under the Act.
According to the same Act, “It is an offence under s.17 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 to excavate, destroy, damage, conceal, or in any way alter an Aboriginal site.” KGH applied for consent to do just that under Section 18(2) of the Act. Their application was denied, yet they continued to excavate.
Flaws in the state-based Aboriginal Heritage Act have already empowered the destruction of objects and sites at Juukan in the Pilbara by Rio Tinto. The Act is currently under review.
In the meantime, the WA Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Ben Wyatt, is the only party with the right to prosecute for breaches of the Act. He is currently undertaking an investigation. We are calling on the minister to quickly complete this investigation and move forward with a prosecution.
This was only an 'exploration'. KGH have illegally removed granite as samples only. They plan to extract thousands more tonnes. The Traditional Owners now have to take their fight to the Native Title Tribunal to stop expansion of the project. This company has broken government law and Gija law and should be held to account.
Please head to our action page to join the late R. Peters, Mabel, Eileen and other Gija people's efforts to bring the miners to account and to stop further destruction of their country by strengthening the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 in ways that ensure traditional owners voices are at the centre of decision making processes.
News Update 7 October 2020:
Kimberley Granite Holdings has withdrawn its applications to:
- the National Native Title Tribunal, seeking to pave the way for the mining lease to be approved via the native title ' future act' process; and
- the State Administrative Appeals Tribunal, seeking to have the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs' decision to reject the section 18, reversed.
While this may seem like good news, the application for the mining lease is still current (has not been withdrawn). The Jawaren and Garnkiny sites are not safe.
The implications of these actions will be better understood in the next couple of weeks, and so please stay tuned for further updates and actions.
The black granite sought by KGH is found within an area with layers of significance for Gija traditional owners in connection to two key Ngarranggarni (Dreaming) stories for Gija people; Garnkiny, the Moon Man and Goorlabal the Snake. As well as Dreaming sites and tracks there are places of familial and cultural importance dotted all over the area.
Garnkiny is what R. Peters describes as 'a big story'. He means both that it covers a vast area of his country and that it concerns the most serious tenets of Gija law. The story is about a man who fell in love with a woman who was his mother-in-law within Gija kinship. When the elders refused to allow him his love, he cursed them and condemned humankind to mortality. This man comes back as the new moon every month, but we die and our bodies return to the earth. His love became the black headed snake and the stars are his promised wives. The story carries meanings about the most primary aspects of human experience and Gija law; death and mortality, love and desire, kinship and obligation. It is because of its significance to this story that the site was listed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act. Goorlabal the serpent is also a powerful Dreaming figure and holder of Law for all Gija people. The black granite removed by KGH is part of her tail. Her gargantuan body lies as stone stretching across a large expanse of country, part of which is within the area destroyed by the recent explosions and extractions.
As well as Ngarranggarni stories, this part of their country holds familial significance for Mabel Juli and Rusty Peters and other traditional owners. Close to the destroyed site are their family's burial places and sites of memory that have already been disturbed and any further mining or exploration in the area would be unacceptable, distressing and dangerous.
Garnkiny: Constellations of Meaning is a book depicting Garnkiny's travels across Gija country and featuring the work of acclaimed Gija artists Phyllis Thomas, Patrick Mung Mung, Jack Britten, Shirley Purdie, Mabel Juli, R. Peters, Hector Jandany, Charlene Carington and Mick Jawalji. It was produced by Warmun Art Centre in conjunction with an exhibition at RMIT in 2014 and can be purchased via: gallery (at) warmunart (dot) com (dot) au
text by Anna Crane
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
Hear more about the Garnkiny story here
Garnkiny not Granite seeks to generate public awareness and political pressure in order to ensure the Traditional Owners' wishes to protect this site from destruction are followed.
We do this with your help by:
1. BEING VOCAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
Post Mabel Juli and Rusty Peters paintings with the hashtag #garnkinynotgranite, tag art institutions that hold their work, and share your personal thoughts on the matter.
2. SIGNING & SHARING THE PETITION
Our petition reached over 30,000 signatures in less than a month and was sent to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Ben Wyatt on the day Mr R. Peters passed away.
3. WRITING LETTERS TO POLITICIANS
We had a successful phase one letter writing campaign. Please stay tuned for future letter writing campaigns.