Jaburara Heritage Trail

Karratha offers a rare natural open-air museum which takes you through Aboriginal history. Learn about the major sites.

Learning about Aboriginal culture

If you are interested in learning about Aboriginal culture, this is an excellent opportunity to do so. The trail stretches about 3.5 kilometres through a rugged area near the town. You should allow two to three hours if you’re just walking, but up to six hours if you’re keen to explore everything and take photographs (like I did).

To attempt the trail you should be fit. Carry at least 1.5 litres of water and some food (bananas, apples are good) with you. Use the usual heat and sun protection, as there is no shade.

The Jaburara people

Karratha is the centre of the land of the Jaburara tribe (pronounced “Yabura”; sometimes referred to as “Jaburrara” or “Yaburarra”). It stretches roughly from Dampier (west) to Wickham (east). The Aboriginal sites on this trail indicate a permanent or seasonal habitation. They include engravings (“petroglyphs”), stone quarries, artefact scatters, a Talu site (see below for an explanation), a shell midden and a grinding area. However, the Jaburara tribe is extinct, and sadly we’ll never now what most of the engravings mean. What you’ll see is the only evidence of their existence…

Pick up a copy of the brochure “Jaburara Heritage Trail” from the Information Centre, located directly at the start of the trail. It has lots of information about each stop, flora and fauna and the history of Karratha and its region.

Karratha. Aboriginal petroglyphs: rock engravings of Emu tracks. Karratha. Aboriginal petroglyphs: rock engravings of Emu tracks.

The trail - selected stops

Aboriginal carvings

When you reach the turn-off to the left, don’t be tempted to follow the path despite its name “Aboriginal heritage trail”. The engravings described in the brochure are right here. Look up to the left and you’ll see the first one next to the turn-off, just before the trail steps down. You can climb the rocks and look for more, but please do not step on them. Also try the right-hand side, there are more.

You’ll need some time to train your eyes to detect them. Look for evenly shaped rock sides, vertically or horizontally orientated. Don’t try to find the engraving represented in the brochure at this stage - it’s somewhere else! These rock engravings are about 5,000 to 6,000 years old.

Aboriginal artefact scatter

The brochure reports “some remnants of Aboriginal artefacts”. Don’t be disappointed not to notice anything - I had the same problem! Apparently the artefacts reveal themselves only to the trained eye.

Aboriginal Talu site

This name requires some explanation. “Talu sites are a type of spiritual repository and are spread throughout the land, each being the location of a different mythical being and the site for special ceremonies related to that being,” says the brochure. You’ll find an exposed rock ridge running down the face of the hill. “So this is a special site??” you might ask as there seems nothing special about these rocks. But think of your understanding of the land and the Aboriginal peoples’. They had an intimate knowledge which we have not, and never will have. That is why we have difficulties to “see” the land’s features in a way similar to theirs.

However, this Talu site is related to the Giant Fruit Eating Bat (Flying Fox) known as “Warramurrangka”. It forms part of the mythical path as it passed from the Burrup Peninsula to the Fortescue River during the Dreamtime.

Karratha. Talu site for the Giant Fruit Eating Bat. Karratha is in the background at the far left. Karratha. Talu site for the Giant Fruit Eating Bat. Karratha is in the background at the far left.

Aboriginal quarry

The artefacts mentioned earlier were produced in this region. The Aboriginals used stone quarries where they cut pieces of rock to make their stone tools. You can notice clearly modified rocks on the right hand side, just before the hill steeply steps down. Again, the “artefact scatter” mentioned in the brochure mystically hides…

Rotary Lookout

Remember the picture of the brochure when you were first looking for engravings? Well, the impressive engraving you’ve seen there is actually here! You cannot miss it. Apparently it has inspired modern visitors, however, some have vandalised the place by scratching messages like “f*** you” at the base of the engraving.
Aboriginal shell midden

When you step down alongside the creek to stop number nine, keep your eyes to the right hand side. Shortly before reaching the road level you’ll notice a whitish area. This is the shell midden where the Aboriginals used to camp. The white shells littering this rocky slope were caught in the bay now known as “Nickol Bay” (north of Karratha) and carried here for extraction of shellfish. The shell was simply dropped, piling up over time. The fresh water after rains ensured the popularity of this site. Note that any removal of shells is not permitted under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

Karratha. Aboriginal shell midden. These shells and bones are thousands of years old. Karratha. Aboriginal shell midden. These shells and bones are thousands of years old.

Cite this article

An appropriate citation for this document is:

www.CreativeSpirits.info, Jaburara Heritage Trail, retrieved 4 August 2021