Program: Murujuga Rock Art

The Western Australian Government recognises the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Murujuga; the past, present and future generations of Ngurra-ra Ngarli, and their ongoing connection to this sacred country.
Murujuga rock art strategy rock landscape

Background

Murujuga (which means ‘hip bone sticking out’ in the Ngarluma-Yaburara language) comprises the Burrup Peninsula and the Dampier Archipelago, 1,300 km north of Perth, Western Australia. The Government of Western Australia recognises Murujuga as a unique ecological and archaeological area containing one of the largest collections of Aboriginal engraved rock art in the world.

Murujuga is also home to industry that contributes to the local, state and national economy and employment. Concerns the rock art could be damaged by industrial air emissions have led to several independent scientific studies and rock art monitoring initiatives since the mid-2000s.

Partnership with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (the department) is committed to the ongoing protection of Murujuga's rock art by working in partnership with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC), representing the Traditional Custodians of Murujuga.

Murujuga Rock Art Strategy

The purpose of the Murujuga Rock Art Strategy is to protect the Aboriginal rock art by providing a long-term framework that builds on previous work to deliver an improved approach to monitoring, analysis and management.

The Murujuga Rock Art Strategy will be reviewed at least every five years. This will ensure it remains current, supports appropriate governance arrangements, and the best scientific knowledge and management practices are used to protect the rock art.

DWER Murujuga rock art strategy rock landscape

The department has primary responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of the strategy in partnership with MAC. This includes working with MAC to oversee the development and implementation of a world’s best practice monitoring and analysis program that will determine whether the rock art on Murujuga is subject to accelerated change.

The scope of this strategy is to:

  1. establish an Environmental Quality Management Framework, including the derivation and implementation of environmental quality criteria
  2. develop and implement a robust program of monitoring and analysis to determine whether change is occurring to the rock art on Murujuga
  3. identify and commission scientific studies to support the implementation of the monitoring and analysis program and management
  4. establish governance arrangements to ensure that:
    • monitoring, analysis and reporting are undertaken in such a way as to provide confidence to Traditional Owners, the community, industry scientists and other stakeholders about the integrity, robustness, repeatability and reliability of the monitoring data and results
    • government is provided with accurate and appropriate recommendations regarding the protection of the rock art, consistent with legislative responsibilities
  5. develop and implement a communication strategy in consultation with stakeholders.  

The Consultation Summary Report summarises the comments received on the draft strategy. The consultation ran from September 2017 to May 2018. There were 27 written submissions received.

Monitoring Program

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A best practice monitoring and analysis program is being developed to provide robust, replicable and reliable information on changes and trends in the condition of the rock art and whether the rock art is showing signs of accelerated change. The program will be independently peer-reviewed to ensure the best available science guides management and protection of the rock art.

The Murujuga Research Protocols have been developed by MAC as a set of governing principles and guidelines to ensure research is conducted in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.

Puliyapang Pty Ltd has been appointed to develop and implement the monitoring program, which will be overseen by the department and MAC, in consultation with national and international subject-matter experts and stakeholders. Puliyapang is a registered Aboriginal business and is a joint venture between Tocomwall and Calibre, and has partnered with subject matter experts from Curtin University, Artcare and ChemCentre to deliver the monitoring program.

The monitoring program will be implemented over five years, in a staged approach, and includes capacity building and training for Murujuga Rangers on the monitoring and analysis techniques. The key stages for the program are:
 

Year 1
  • Review of weathering/alteration/degradation processes that have the potential to cause change in the rock art.
  • Stakeholder workshop.
  • Development of a conceptual model and monitoring studies plans; determine optimal monitoring sites.
  • Peer review of conceptual model and monitoring studies plan.
Years 2-3
  • Field work and laboratory monitoring studies commence.
  • Ranger training and capacity building.
  • Implementation of the monitoring program.
Years 3-5
  • Implementation of the monitoring program.
  • Independent five-yearly review.


Reports produced as part of the monitoring program will be published on the Murujuga Rock Art Strategy document collection.

Stakeholder Reference Group

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The Murujuga Rock Art Stakeholder Reference Group was established by the Minister for Environment, Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC, in September 2018 to facilitate engagement between MAC and key government, industry and community representatives on the development and implementation of the strategy. The terms of reference for the reference group can be viewed here.

The department will ensure stakeholders have opportunities to provide input through targeted consultation as required. The department will consult key stakeholders in the development and implementation of the strategy and as part of the five-year review process, or any other review carried out more frequently.

The Stakeholder Reference Group is chaired by Dr Ron Edwards. To contact the Reference Group, email murujugarockartsrg@dwer.wa.gov.au 
 

Name Affiliation
Dr Ron Edwards Independent Chair
Mr Peter Jeffries Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation
Ms Sarah McEvoy Department of Water and Environmental Regulation
Mr Ben Peden Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation
Mr Jeremy Elliott Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage
Mr Allisdair MacDonald Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
Mr Robert Brock Pilbara Ports Authority
Mr Terry Hill Pilbara Development Commission
Ms Anneliese Carson Western Australian Museum
Cr Peter Long  City of Karratha
Mr James Barker Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Mr Luke Blackbourn Yara Pilbara
Mr Travis Inman Rio Tinto Iron Ore
Mr Adam Lees Woodside Energy Ltd
Professor Jo McDonald Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, University of Western Australia
Dr John Black John L Black Consulting

Summaries of meetings

Summaries of community forums

Previous Monitoring

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Over the past 15 years there have been many scientific studies conducted and reports produced regarding the potential for industrial emissions to impact on Murujuga’s rock art. The previous monitoring, undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) between 2004 and 2016, focused on the colour change and spectral mineralogy of the rock art on Murujuga.

Independent reviews commissioned by the Western Australian Government have recognised that improvements can be made to ensure that monitoring programs and other studies provide robust, reliable results to inform management. This advice has been carefully considered in the development of the Murujuga Rock Art Monitoring Program.

You can view previous monitoring reports in the document collection.

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The Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the Western Australian Government welcome stakeholder involvement in the Murujuga Rock Art Strategy.

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Page reviewed 19 October 2020