Wiluna People

Martu people have occupied the area around the Little Sandy, Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts for over 40,000 years. Today, Martu people remain living on country in parts of the Great Sandy Desert such as Parngurr and Punmu while others have moved into remote towns and communities such as Jigalong, Wiluna, Newman and Port Hedland.

The Martu people are connected through shared country as well as through a common language, Martu Wangka (Martu talk), which is a recent amalgamation of several dialects, such as Kartujarra, Putijarra, Mandiljarra, that were spoken in discrete parts of the Martu lands.

During the early to mid 1900s, Martu took up jobs on sheep and cattle stations. Many Martu remember these times fondly as working on stations often meant staying on country. Many of the Wiluna Martu grew up on stations like Lorna Glen, Wongawol, Granite Peak, Glenayle, Earaheedy, Lake Violet and Carnegie while their parents worked as stockmen and domestic workers.

Today the population of the Wiluna township fluctuates between 200 to 300 people and within the greater Wiluna shire, the population exceeds 1000 people with a large proportion of fly in fly out mine workers.

59105D16-524E-4A96-B496-FA62C0CC1199-1In July and September 2013, Wiluna Traditional Owners had their exclusive and non-exclusive native title rights and interests recognized over Wiluna and Wiluna #2 by the Federal Court of Australia over an area of approximately 53,210 square kilometers (‘Wiluna Country’).  See here for further details on the Wiluna and Wiluna #2 native title determinations.  Tarlka Matuwa Piarku Aboriginal Corporation (RNTBC) is the entity that holds the native title for the Wiluna native title holders.

Burning Country around wilunaWiluna Country

Wiluna Country is located at the confluence of two biogeographic regions – the Gascoyne and the Murchison regions.  The Murchison bioregion is the dominant bioregion with low flat hills separated by alluvial plains, mulga woodlands and occluded paleodrainage channels.  The Gascoyne bioregion where the ancient drainage channels follow the songline of the Pikuta (Euro) who travelled east through the area creating the creeks as he travelled.

The influence of two distinct bioregions in Wiluna Country is borne out most obviously through the change in the vegetation as one travels through the area. Jukurrpa (the dreaming) is inscribed in the land forms throughout Wiluna Country where hilly peaks (Yapu) signify dreamtime creatures and small caves in breakaways are storied places where dreamtime actors camped overnight, stored items of significance or had permanent camps.

The Tali (sand dunes) and Parada (spinifex country) is perfect for tracking ‘bush tucker’ such as bush turkey and emu and is home to burrowing animals such as the marsupial mole and the bilby.  More heavily wooded areas are home for goanna (parnka) and remnant populations of malleefowl.

The area is described as ‘fringe desert’ with rainfall levels between 150 mm to 250 mm annually although rainfall is particularly unpredictable.  The confluence of bioregions creates a highly biodiverse habitat with a large number of land systems, flora and fauna species concentrated in the area.

For Martu, native desert fauna are central figures in the Jukurrpa. They are part of the general creation story and at an individual level, they can be personal totems that connect people to land and ritual. Some native animals are companions and some act as guides in the landscape. Certain animals, Marlu (Red Kangaroo), Karlaya (Emu) or Partata (Bush turkey) are referred to as Kuka (bush meat) and are hunted by Martu on their lands.

Martu are taught to observe and learn about desert animals from an early age. Many can speak at length about the behavioural traits of certain animals and how to recognize the tracks and traces of animals present on their country.

The landscape within Wiluna Country has been shaped into its current form by Martu fire management over thousands of years and pastoralism in more recent years. The pre-European desert landscape was made up of patches of different ages of vegetation, which had been created through Martu fire management and specifically the continual lighting of smaller fires. The pattern of vegetation ages that results is referred to as the ‘mosaic’. The mosaic supports the overall biodiversity of the flora/fauna population through creating a variety of habitats where multiple species can thrive.

023_Newmont_121009Wiluna Priorities

Wiluna Traditional Owner priorities for using and managing country are currently being compiled into the Wiluna Country Plan.  The priorities identified to date have been grouped into six inter-related themes:

  • A future for our kids
  • Working together as partners
  • Connection to people and country
  • Keeping culture strong
  • Creating jobs on our land
  • Cross cultural learning

In addition, the Wiluna Traditional Owners have recently completed a Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) Plan for Country. The draft plan provides the strategic framework for the use and management of the former Lorna Glen and Earaheedy Stations in the context of the above priorities and the wider Wiluna landscape and economy.

There are a number of land and community projects that have or are being implemented by Wiluna Traditional Owners on Wiluna Country, some of which are framed by the Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara IPA Plan for Country.  For regular updates on these projects, please see the media below, our newsletters here and our facebook site here.

The Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara IPA was is due to be dedicated by the Wiluna Traditional Owners in July 2015.

Current Plans

WILUNA Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara IPA Plan for Country


WILUNA Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara IPA fact sheet

WILUNA Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara IPA article – July 2015

WILUNA Wiluna Women Looking after Ululla article – June 2015

WILUNA, BIRRILIBURU AND KIWIRRKURRA Indigenous Desert Network Article – February 2015

WILUNA Matuwa Threatened Species Commissioner Visit video – December 2014

WILUNA Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara World Parks Congress poster – November 2014

WILUNA Firefighting Rangers Article – November 2014

WILUNA Ranger mention in Australian Parliament video – October 2014

WILUNA Ranger Mention in Australian Parliament transcript – October 2014

WILUNA Matuwa and Kurrara Kurrara Joint Management picture book (Parks and Wildlife) – 2014

WILUNA and BIRRILIBURU Visit to Canberra article – November 2013

WILUNA Newmont Jundee Ranger Article – August 2012

WILUNA Newmont Jundee partnership E&MJ article – February 2014

WILUNA  Threatened Species project article – December 2014

WILUNA Newmont Jundee UN Global Compact article – October 2013

WILUNA Jundee Ranger Demonstration Project Trip Report – November 2011

WILUNA Matuwa Feral Animal Wangka Trip Report – August 2011

WILUNA Return to Country Trip video – October 2010

BIRRILIBURU and WILUNA Partners Trip Report – September 2010

WILUNA Matuwa Martuku Ngurra Camp Build Trip Report – August 2010

WILUNA Matuwa Ladies Painting Trip Report – July 2010

WILUNA Yimbin Fauna Survey Trip Report – April 2010

WILUNA Land Management Project Report – March 2010

WILUNA Cybertracker Training Trip Report – January 2010

WILUNA Return to Country Trip Report – November 2009