Our land has a big story. Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time. Come and hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you come back.
Jacob Nayinggul - Manilakarr clan.
The Creation Time
All things in the landscape were left by the Creation Ancestors.
They taught Aboriginal people how to live with the land. From then on Aboriginal people became keepers of their country.
-Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
In the Creation Time, the Creation Ancestors were travelling across the landscape. The tracks left by the Ancestors are known as Dreaming tracks. Some Creation Ancestors are still active today.
The image above depicts Namarrgon (pronounced narm-arr-gon). Namarrgon is an important Creation Ancestor who is responsible for the violent lightning storms that occur every tropical summer. The band around him from his left ankle, joining his hands and head, and down to his right ankle represents the lightning he creates. He uses the axes on his head, elbows and feet to split the dark clouds and make lightning and thunder.Namarrgon's story in this area is part of a longer story, covering a journey beginning on the coastline of the Coburg Peninsula and ending in a rock shelter in the sandstone country of the Arnhem Land plateau, where he remains today. During his travels he left his power behind at many places. On his last journey, when he approached the escarpment from the east, he looked over the sheer wall, then took out an eye and placed it high on the cliff at Namarrgondjahdjam (Lightning Dreaming), where it sits, waiting for the storm season. Lightning Dreaming can be seen from Gun-warddehwardde lookout.
The Rainbow Serpent
The Rainbow Serpent was a major creator being.
She created passages through rocks and formed waterholes in the Kakadu landscape, helping form the habitat for all beings. She is also part of the life cycle of plants and animals and the seasonal changes.
The many stories and sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent are often linked to water and places where she travelled across country, leaving behind features in the landscape. We believe she is still present today, resting, and should never be disturbed.
In the Kakadu region alone, the Rainbow Serpent has many different language names. To the north of the park she is known in Gun-djeihmi as 'almudj', while further south, Jawoyn speakers say 'bolung'.
The Kakadu National Park logo depicts the Rainbow Serpent. We chose it to represent our local Aboriginal people and the broader Aboriginal community. It symbolises cultural unity across many clans and many languages throughout our region. Her image is a constant reminder of her power and presence and a reminder of our obligations to care for country.
Caring for country
Kakadu is Aboriginal land. Our people have kept it healthy for thousands of years. Today, we work hand-in-hand with Parks Australia to manage Kakadu, using a mix of traditional ways and modern science.
Age-old skills such as patch burning are integral to the modern management of the park.
Each tropical summer, the plants grow quickly after monsoonal rains. As things dry out, all this vegetation turns into dangerous amounts of bushfire fuel. Our rangers use traditional patch burning to clear the fuel load, helping to prevent big bushfires late in the year.
Like our ancestors, we light small fires early in the year, while it's still nice and cool. The animals have time to escape to unburnt habitat, and the fire stimulates new growth. This patchwork of burnt and unburnt land makes it hard for big bushfires to spread.
This way of burning has developed over many generations.
Before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people, we lit fires for many reasons: to make travelling easier; to flush out animals when hunting; to protect food resources such as yams from later fires; to clear around camp sites; to signal to others; and to fulfil spiritual and cultural obligations. This created suitable habitats for a range of different plants and animals.
With the arrival of non-Aboriginal people, our population decreased. Many people died of disease, others moved off their land to towns and settlements. With fewer people on the land, less burning was carried out so hot, late dry season wildfires became more common. These hot fires were often large and destructive, changing the mix of plants and animals. Since Kakadu National Park was declared, we have worked together with park managers to fix this - it's a great example of our joint management work.