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Aboriginal rangers discover rock art sites while conducting burn-offs in Arnhem Land


A group of Aboriginal rangers has discovered hundreds of works of rock art while conducting dry season burn-offs in the remote West Arnhem region, in Australia's Northern Territory.

Aboriginal rangers discover rock art sites while conducting burn-offs in Arnhem Land
Newly discovered rock art in Arnhem Land, which it at risk from bushfires and feral animals 
[Credit: ABC News, Kristy O'Brien]
The local people estimate there could be more than 30,000 pieces in one area alone, and a group of female rangers are now working hard to preserve and document them.

The works depict traditional ways, mythical creatures, and ancient songlines: one section portrays first contact with police officers, ships and guns.

But they are at risk from damage by feral animals and large seasonal wildfires that tear through Arnhem Land.

"I don't want late fires going out on the rocks, because we've got a lot of important rock arts that we don't want to destroy," said Warddeken ranger Lindsay Whitehurst.

Feral animals such as buffalo, horses and pigs in the area have been spoiling waterholes and causing erosion, and Warddeken's female rangers are taking steps to protect the art from them.

"We're protecting rock art, we need to put a fence around because we don't want pigs and buffalo to go rubbing themselves against rock art areas," said ranger Serena Namarnyilk Yibarbuk.

Several female rangers patrol the area, raking up dry grasses and blowing away dead leaves, putting in a firebreak, and conducting small localised burns.

The rangers are still cataloguing and documenting the art, and are not sure what all the works depict.

Aboriginal rangers discover rock art sites while conducting burn-offs in Arnhem Land
Rangers hope locals will be able to protect and catalogue the art representing their history 
[Credit: ABC News, Kristy O'Brien]
"We need to look after our art," Ms Namarnyilk Yibarbuk said. "It is important for our children when they grow up and see what we are doing now, when they grow up they're going to do same as we are doing."

She said she'd like to see local people doing the necessary anthropology and ecology work to maintain their own country and history.

"We want to see our Bininj people do this kind of work," she said.

"We need to record it and document, we need to put which areas are we going, and which clan [is responsible].

"We're going to talk to our family members and traditional owners to go and work there; if traditional owners say, 'okay, you can go and do the job, you can take me with you'."

Warddeken CEO Shaun Ansell said maintaining the sites was extremely important for the local people.

"This part of the world … is covered in the legacy and the history of Indigenous people's occupation of this land, and there are literally tens of thousands of these occupation sites, these rock art sites, right across the Warddeken [Indigenous protected area]," he said. "People feel very, very passionate about reconnecting with them, rediscovering them, managing them, and ultimately protecting them as a part of their cultural heritage to maintain them for future generations."

Authors: Kristy O'Brien and Neda Vanovac | Source: ABC News Website [July 30, 2017]
TANN

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