Stand Up For The Burrup

The slender Burrup Peninsula is located a little north east of Dampier/Karratha.

Little known in Australian history is that the original inhabitants of the Dampier Archipelago were the Yaburara people who were massacred over an eight day period in February 1868. This genocide occurred at various locations on the Burrup and in the waters of the Archipelago, in what is referred to as the Flying Foam Massacre. The current custodians are the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi, Wong-goo-tt-oo and Yaburara Mardudhunera peoples.

The Burrup Peninsula has been described as, “a continuous cultural landscape providing a detailed record of both sacred and secular life reaching from the present back into the past, perhaps to the first settlement of Australia”.

The Stand Up For the Burrup campaign was launched in June 2007.

This campaign has endeavoured to draw attention to what can be claimed to be, one of the world’s most significant cultural and historical areas.  The National Trust has described the Dampier Rock Art Precinct as “one of the world’s pre-eminent sites of recorded human evolution and a prehistoric university”.

Surely this significance would endow the area with the reverence which we would expect to be shown to a site with at least the significance of Stonehenge, or the Mayan archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula.  Instead the Burrup has taken second place to industrial and infrastructure development for more than 40 years.

The Burrup Peninsula came into worldwide focus in 2003 when the World Monuments Fund listed the area on the top 100 most endangered heritage places on the planet: the only Australian site. This fact however seemed to escape the West Australian government.

The traditional owners also pressured the State Government to “abandon or curb industrial expansion on the Burrup because of fears that industrial emissions are harming the rock art”.

From Our Heritage At Risk:

A portion of the rock art collection has already been destroyed since industry began operating out of the port at Dampier in the 1960s. The remainder are under threat from industrial emissions, which destroy the rock surface the carvings are etched into. Without the completion of a comprehensive study, and without the completion of the existence of a holistic management plan, the Western Australian government continues to approve new infrastructure ventures—despite the fact that an alternate site exists near by which would be far more suitable for industry.

22 January 2007:

“Australian oil and gas giant Woodside Petroleum Ltd has yet to explain why it needs to move ancient rock art to develop a gas plant on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula.”

20 December 2008:

Marked the 200th global rally for Burrup World Heritage Listing.

9 February 2010:

A WA company which damaged protected rock art on the Burrup Peninsula must pay at least $280,000 and enter into financial agreements with local Indigenous groups.

3rd March 2011:

Press Release: The WA Greens hope the Burrup Peninsula in the State’s North West will eventually be world heritage listed, after the Federal Government agreed to assess the area. The assessment is expected to take six months.


The Western Australian Government is still planning to turn part of this site into a natural gas production and processing facility against the wishes of some of the site`s Aboriginal custodians and the scientific community. This is industrial development which could easily be located elsewhere. There is no oil or gas at the Burrup.

Ref: Stand up for the Burrup

The above written with due respect to the traditional owners and their supporters. This has been an issue which I have been keenly observing for some time, but have not been directly involved. I hope that my small effort can be of assistance to those who have worked so hard in preservation of the land, and in the preservation of the Spirit of that land.

32 comments on “Stand Up For The Burrup

  1. This sort of imperialistic behaviour just irritates the f#@k out of me. The rock out belongs to everyone and is part of our heritage, we can’t replace it! If this were the Louvre there would be no industry next door that could damage the paintings. But beyond it’s historical significance is the fact that it is still linked to the peoples of that area. How can we fail to understand the insult and disrepsect that such an act of distruction is to the First Nations, be they of that area or not, for whom it is more than a historical relic.
    There is an online petition for those who would like to add their name, here:
    and lots of informations and photographs here:
    Thanks for sharing Min.

  2. Inga, and of course thank you too. They are an incredible group of people, completely dedicated..and who wouldn’t be when you are the custodian of one of our Earth’s greatest treasures.

    Yes, likewise irritating the f*ck out of thoughts of the future, no thoughts of how this heritage is one of the oldest and most ancient of our heritages.

    Imagine it. When we whose ancestors come from northern climes were grubbing for fruits and berries, here was this culture whose spiritualism is well beyond our comprehension.

    I catch glimpses of it at times, the connectedness, the oneness. I was once told by by one of the Arakwal aunties that I was of the spirit. A large cuddly lady, she kissed me and I felt it to be blessing.

  3. Greed is a dreadful thing and it seems to turn off the conscience button for some reason. Destroying the treasures and heritage of those who looked after the land with care and consideration just isn’t right.

  4. Patricia R, it seems to me to be a state of oblivion to those things which are the important things in life.

    Not so long ago the catch-phrase was “progress”..everything for the sake of this intangible thing called progress. – preserve a tree, then it was against progress – object to the destruction of habitat, then you were against progress – heritage homes bulldozed, well that’s progress for you.

  5. As always a great post , Min.

    Unfortunately, I think the WA government is aware of what they are preparing to destroy, but they couldn’t give a toss. The bloody mindedness of the WA government is beyond the pale.

    As Inga noted, if it were the Louvre or St Paul’s or Florence, it wouldn’t even cross their minds. The lack of respect and understanding of the cultural and artistic significance of this magnificent rock art is breathtaking.

    I can’t imagine the French condoning the destruction of the Chauvet and Lascaux cave art for any reason and neither should we. Burrup is every bit as wonderful, beautiful and significant and it’s bloody here in this country!

    We should be celebrating its existence, not trying to wipe it from the face of the earth!

    Everything crossed for the Burraup to gain a World Heritage listing, sooner rather than later.

    I have signed the petition, Inga. Let’s hope it’s successful in shaming the WA government to reconsider their decision and to appreciate the value of this unique and ancient art and the culture which inspired it.

  6. Jane, thank you. Although I knew of the Stand Up For The Burrup campaign, I did not realize the world heritage significance of the Burrup until I started researching the topic.

    Crazy days isn’t it, and I believe indicative of how little Australia appreciates its own culture and heritage.

  7. Kevin, I was thinking of one of the greatest disservices that the anti-climate change people have given us is that it seems that ALL issues pertaining to the environment have become non-issues. The underlying theme being that the natural environment will somehow take care of itself and that we don’t have any responsibility in this matter whatsoever.

  8. The trouble is that these companies build the cost of the fine into the over-all costings, $280,000 is small biccys in some of these ventures.
    If we are part of Asia now and middle class Asia is growing, wont they be looking to take holidays to see the unique and rare places in their area of the world. Surely places such as this would be a tourism mecca.

  9. Yes, Kevin. I thought of Burrup this morning listening to Tony Burke enthuse about Cape York. Do you know Min if there’s any recent progress being made with this Minister re Burrup? By the way, what a pleasant change today on Insiders and the ABC to let a Minister focus entirely on his portfolio. He seems to have it at heart as well as in his head to get world heritage listing for these ancient sites and pristine environments. Is that a fair assessment?

  10. Kevin, Min, i’ve a long held view that, wrt to our natural and cultural heritage, conservatives have long lost the plot, and are motivated in their vandalism, and denials of reality by the childish conviction that there’s no way those bloody hippies and/or greenies can be right about anything.

    thus plainly stupid approaches such as trashing sites of significance just to spite these “ratbags” becomes part of their operating procedures even though their failures to aknowledge and deal with legitimate concerns, invariably increases costs and sometimes conflict over the projects in question – here in tas. the most obvious examples are the “road to nowhere” on the west coast, and, imho the proposed siting of a pulp mill in a (deliberately?) controversial location.

    an ironic side effect of this type of approach can be clearly observed as these reactionary forces move further and further from the reality based community, as once again,(as seems to be in the nature of conservatism), its exponents “battle” to be on the wrong side of the reality/unreality divide.

    the astonishing thing to me, is that wrt to the siting of the proposed developements, there is a large area of flat spinifex country, which is apparently suitable for such projects only a few km. away from the current developements.

  11. Patricia, progress unknown however I am certain that the people of the Burrup will keep fighting the good fight.

    This might seem but a small issue to some.

  12. Pterosaur, I think that we’ll have to take it for granted that you and I are tree hugging greenies. Mind you, I never saw this as a particular insult..

    In my time as a Shire Councillor developers had to be dragged kicking and screaming to be made to plant so much as a tiny wee little nature imagine going up against the likes of Gina and Twiggy.

  13. Min, i found it pretty funny being (recently ) called a “tree hugger” – for the first time in my 60+ years! i laughed and agreed – my reaction seemed to piss the other off for some reason?
    i’ve been a so-called greenie since early primary, when i was fascinated by “tom the naturalist” on the abc children’s hour on radio, and decided that was what i wanted to be, and do, and funnily enough did with my first degree, and later, work. 😎

  14. Is /can there be such a thing as a Blog groupie, if so, then Meta Im one yours 😳 …. crikey !!!

  15. Funny how many called us names, such as barracker and rusted on etc, especially expecting one to be insulted.

    It amuses me. They say it because they have ran out of logical arguments, that is if they ever did.

    I am a Labor supporter. I am not ashamed of being so. There is much I do not like about what Labor does, but one cannot have everything.

    I would rather spend my time, working towards changing what I do not agree with

    In the toxic political climate one finds themselves in today, all ones energy must be used, defending the electoral system and procedural fairness.

    Why one needs to defend a duly elected government that is Constitutional is beyond me.

    I am probably no Greenie, but I do believe in looking after the environment.

  16. We all agree that the environment should be looked after, not only Labor and the Greens. Oddly, conservatives also have grandchildren and they don’t want a spoiled environment for them either.

    ‘Why one needs to defend a duly elected government that is Constitutional is beyond me.’

    The wonderful thing about democracy is that we are debating the issues until the next election, nobody is reaching for a gun and the troops remain in their barracks.

    I might bemoan the fact that a CO2 tax will come into play on July 1, but all Australians recognise that the minority government is legitimate and they will wait for the opportunity to vote the ratbags out.

  17. Pterosaur, if my memory serves me correctly the term tree-hugger arrived at the time of the Franklin Dam case..for obvious reasons.

    I can’t say that I was ever much of an environmentalist until I started living in the Dandenong Ranges foothills and saw so much remnant bush and habitat being carved up and put under concrete.

  18. El gordo, just in my experience many conservatives describe destroying bushland as “progress” and often go about things in the least imaginative, most destructive way possible.

    As per my example of many subdivisions which came before Council. The plans were legally acceptable, but how to justify chopping down so many trees when with a little imaginative planning those trees could be retained.

  19. ‘…with a little imaginative planning those trees could be retained.’

    Yeah, I tend to agree that red necks appear insensitive, but everyone is still thinking about the Victorian bushfires and the best bet for saving life and property.

  20. El gordo, it’s about motivation..the motivation in many developers minds is the extraction of maximum $$s, not an environmental thought in their combined heads.

    Another example is timber homes built by developers in known fire-prone areas. These are extremely dangerous especially on sloping sites where fire can come up underneath the house. Originally it was only a “recommendation” that homes have an enclosed perimeter foundation to help stop this from occuring. The request was continuously ignored by developers and so it required that Council pass a resolution so as to enforce this as part of Council’s by laws.

  21. I should add..even then developers would fight tooth and nail to avoid having to comply, endless appeals to the state government against councils.

  22. Just heard that news on ABC Breakfast Min.

    If this gets through it will be massive, twice as big as anything else in the world and create a mote of marine parks all around Australia.


  23. Mobius, I can’t see why it won’t get will certainly have the support of the Greens and most likely the Independants..Katter is another story..

  24. Thank you News. Blogmaster Miglo is the expert on indigenous issues, this was just my small offering. Anything to help to spread the word, an issue which mostly escapes the attention of the msm especially over here in the East.

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