Who are the traditional owners of the Bungle Bungles?
Formed over 20 million years ago, the Bungle Bungles aren't just a beautiful natural landmark but also a place of connection for the Karjaganujaru and Gija peoples, who are the traditional owners of the land. For more than 20,000 years, this land has been a sacred and spiritual place for Aboriginal people and still remains that way today with the management of Purnululu National Park (where the Bungle Bungles range is located) divided between the traditional custodians and the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation.
This ancient landscape remains a significant place in Aboriginal culture with connection and association from the Dreamtime displayed via stories, songs, tours of the sacred land, and artwork. Because this country is rich in history and spiritual meaning, it has featured in several art pieces over the years, including works by Aboriginal artists such as Rover Thomas and Queenie Mckenzie (both now deceased). In fact, some of Australia's most famous Aboriginal artists come from this land with contemporary Aboriginal artwork displayed in the nearby Warmun Centre.
Protecting the Bungle Bungles
Surprisingly, for a natural landmark as breathtaking as the Bungle Bungles, hardly anyone knew about them until the early 1980s. The majority of people with knowledge of the sacred range before that time were the Karjaganujaru and Gija peoples, and it wasn't until a film crew flew over the Bungle Bungles on their way to make a documentary on the Kimberley region that these beautiful sandstone domes were noticed at all.
Once the documentary was released, the Bungle Bungles became a popular tourist spot for Australians and international travellers, however, there has been a lot done since then to ensure the protection of both the Purnululu National Park and the Bungle Bungles themselves.
It is because of the natural formations becoming well known to the wider population, and because of their significance to the Karjaganujaru and Gija peoples, as well as to the wider Indigenous population in the Kimberley region, that these uniquely shaped sandstone domes were given World Heritage-listed status in 2003. This means the site has legal protection and cannot be changed or altered in any way, ensuring that the Bungle Bungles will always be there to maintain a connection to country for generations to come.