We call the rocky high ground all around Gurruwiling (Arafura Swamp) bukul-nah and larr. From this high ground our old people were able to look out over the swamp to watch for smoke as signals of people approaching and hunting on country. From the high ground we can see the swamp as it changes with the seasons.
Most of our escarpment country is found in the catchment area for Gurruwiling and includes the Parsons and Mitchell Ranges. This includes the famous stone quarry of Ngilipidji where for thousands of years Wagilak and Rittharngu craftsmen have made stone tools to be traded over a huge region in this part of north Australia.
Much of the water that feeds our rivers and Gurruwiling comes down from the ranges.
Stone country is an important home for rock wallaby, echidna, possum, flying fox, python and blue tongue. There are also plenty of important plants like the spear tree, bush potato and berries and plums. Here we find spinifex, some jungle springs and waterfalls.
But big fires can also start in rough and rugged country where it is very hard to control. Many of the plants in the rock country do not tolerate repeated late hot fire. Old people knew this and controlled burning in the rock country very carefully, regularly reducing fuels by burning small areas as they walked around in the early dry season. We want to revive the tradition of walking and burning across this upland area from Ngilipidji to Donydji and maybe even as far as Ngukurr to the east and Barrapunta to the west.
Bukul-nah and larr are big areas and hard to get into because much is rough and rugged. We need better access for management and cultural responsibilities but we know that roads will open this area up to other threats like the wrong visitors — so while making access easier for our people we must strengthen our control over access by wrong people.
Our biggest worry is the threat of mining. More than 30 years ago Rittharngu and Wagilak people made a short film called “Still You Keep Asking, Asking”, saying we were sick from being asked to let mining into our homelands. We still keep saying no to mining but still they keep coming back and asking, asking. If mining ever happens there is a big concern about the impact it will also have on all our country.
All the right animals and plants are healthy, and we have good access to look after our escarpment country and there is no mining.