A local secret
Two kilometres from the town site is Mirima National Park. “Mirima” is the name given by the Miriwoong people to the area, extending some 150 kilometres to the north and south, and 170 kilometres to the east and west from Kununurra. The author Harvey Arden suggests that name represents a Pelican Dreaming.
Mirima looks like a “mini Bungle Bungle”, the popular Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) National Park which is located near Turkey Creek. Mirima National Park consists of the same sandstone ranges, cliffs and valleys dotted with green bushes and some trees. In conjunction with the blue sky you’ll get a fascinating colour mix, which is best enjoyed early in the morning. Ideal for photography.
With this wonderful national park so close to Kununurra, you don’t need to pay for an expensive flight over Purnululu National Park. Go for the hands-on experience, a great walk, as you can easily do all walks in one day. Double-check to carry enough water with you.
Mirima National Park walks
Gerliwany-gerring banan (entry trail)
The name is Aboriginal and means “for-walking trail”. This is an alternative to the broad entry road and both the trail and the road lead to the parking area. On this trail you walk away from the road and close to nature. However, this might result in a lot of cobwebs when you’re the first to take it. So mind your face… If you want to photograph the rocks and cliffs lit by the morning sun, it is advisable to use the road, which will give you better views, unobscured by the man-high grass.
Length: 1,000 metres.
Looking at plants nature trail
This trail explains how the Aboriginals used plants and trees. Take the time to read the well-written signs. Maybe you want to take notes. This is a return walk, which starts and ends at the parking area. Good views to the surrounding cliffs. By the time you get here, the sun is probably lighting the cliff tops.
Length: 400 metres.
Derdbe-gerring banan (lookout trail)
The name means “for-looking trail”. The walk connects to the nature trail and eventually climbs a ridge. From there you have very good views of the surrounding area, including Kununurra town. Beautiful colours, bunches of grass and some signs which explain the area and a bit of Aboriginal history.
Length: 800 metres.
Demboong banan (gap trail)
You can take this trail on the way back to town. It leads through a narrow valley, which ends in a view of Kununurra through a gap in the range. Some folks walk on, as there’s an illegal track winding towards the town. You’ll get great photo opportunities here, so take your time and arrange some good shots.
Length: 500 metres.
Aboriginal people win limited native title rights
In April 1994 the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people applied for native title of a region of 8,000 square kilometres covering also Mirima National Park (Miriuwung Gajerrong #1) .
In November 1998 the Federal Court (Justice Lee) found that the Aboriginals held native title to a large part of the claim area. A lot of parties, including the State of Western Australia, filed an appeal against this decision.
A Full Bench of the Federal Court assessed these appeals in March 2000 and partly overturned Justice Lee’s findings. As a consequence the area which the Aboriginals could claim was significantly reduced. In turn, they appealed against this decision in the High Court, the highest court in Australia.
The High Court did not rule before August 2002. Its decision — “the most important Native Title case since Wik” — granted “limited native title rights” to the traditional Aboriginal owners, meaning that all indigenous rights over minerals, petroleum or The Argyle Diamond Mine have been extinguished. Ben Ward, chief claimant and elder of the Miriuwung-Gajerrong Aboriginal people, did not want to pursue any more legal action. The decision was called a “milestone in the interpretation of native title law” by the Kimberley Land Council.
On 24 November 2006 another consent determination was handed down by the Federal Court of Western Australia. It resolved the Miriuwung Gajerrong #4 native title claim where the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people had applied to extend their land from near Kununurra to the Northern Territory border.
The Aboriginal people can now access this land and generate economic benefits through their own small businesses. Agreements have been set up with pastoralists operating the affected leases so that the interests and rights of both sides are respected.
Miriuwung and Gajerrong people now
- own certain community lease areas (e.g. Molly Springs, Flying Fox),
- access the country to hunt, fish and utilise its resources (food, plants, trees, charcoal, ochre, stone, wax),
- can continue to engage in cultural activities,
- protect places of cultural significance,
- make decisions about using the land.
Internet resources to the Miriuwung Gajerrong #1 case
- High Court decision in August 2002
- The Cycle for Reconciliation published an critical article on WA’s involvement of Aboriginals in the Conservation and Land Management Act: “This is the only State in Australia where Aboriginal people are not mentioned in the national park legislation.” There is only an archived version available.