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A Kimberley scene for Kspace redevelopment

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A Kimberley scene for Kspace redevelopment

22 Sep 2014

A large expanse of water in front of a large cliff. A crocodile is in the foreground.
A freshwater crocodile at Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge), a significant site for the Bunuba people, and important location in the Jandamarra story. Photo Jason McCarthy.

By Stephen Munro

The National Museum is currently redeveloping Kspace, a place in the Museum designed specifically for children. The original Kspace allowed children to design virtual crafts, which they could then see moving through an animated futuristic city landscape.

The new Kspace will be similar, in that it will allow children to design their own virtual craft (in this case a robot), but rather than go to the future, they will travel back in time to a scene from Australian history.

The Kimberley region of northwest Australia is one of the most remote, rugged and spectacular places in the world. The unique wildlife, towering gorges, and majestic waterfalls made it an appealing location in which to base one of our Kspace scenes.

Community consultation

Of course, the Kimberley is also home to numerous Aboriginal groups who continue to have deep cultural connections to their land. Because of this, we wanted to consult with the local Kimberley communities to advise them, and to seek feedback, on what we were planning.

We were fortunate to be invited to attend and address the Fitzroy Valley Futures Forum, which was hosted by the Yungngora community on Noonkanbah station, and chaired by community chairperson Caroline Mulligan, and Bunuba elder June Oscar.

Noonkanbah is, of course, synonymous with the Aboriginal battle for land rights, and it was a great privilege to be welcomed to the community and invited to present our plans and participate in what was a lively meeting.

Another meeting was held with KALACC (the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre), where we were able to discuss the Kspace project with Walmajarri elder Joe Brown, a much respected senior lawman. Mr Brown stressed that the Kimberley is made up of distinct language groups, and that Aboriginal culture in the Kimberley is strong and continues to guide people's everyday lives. This meeting also established a process by which the content used in the Kspace project could be checked and authorised by the centre' directors, who represent the various Kimberley language groups.

A boab tree surrounded by many termite mounds.
Termite mounds and boab trees are an ever-present feature of the Kimberley landscape. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

Jandamarra story

We were also fortunate to be able to meet with Bunuba elder Dillon Andrews, a traditional owner of the land where the story of the legendary Jandamarra took place. Mr Andrews offered his support for the Kspace project and the telling of the Jandamarra story, though warned that certain aspects of Aboriginal culture would be difficult to convey to young children, especially the cultural significance of certain rock art sites.

Meeting with Mr Andrews reminded us of the importance of land and culture to the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, and also how recently the events surrounding the Jandamarra resistance actually took place.

During our trip to the Kimberley we were able to visit significant cultural sites such as Darngku (Geikie Gorge), Barra (Tunnel Creek) and Bandilngan (Windjana Gorge), the latter two especially central to the story of Jandamarra.

The Kimberley landscape is breathtaking in its beauty, yet harsh and complex. Monsoonal rains turn empty riverbeds into raging torrents, sheer faced cliffs rise up from seemingly endless plains, cattle graze alongside kangaroos in the grasslands, while boab trees and red earth termite mounds lie below immense blue skies. Depending on the season and time of day, it could be cool and dry or hot and humid.

The ancientness of the landscape is mirrored only by the depth of connection that the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley continue to have with the land. We hope to bring some of these unique Kimberley characteristics to life in the scene we are developing for the Kspace project.

A wool shed in the desert.
The Fitzroy Valley Futures Forum was held at Noonkanbah station, in the Yungngora woolshed. Photo: Jason McCarthy.
A women holding a microphone addresses an audience.
Jane Pedersen addresses the Fitzroy Valley Futures Forum on 25 June 2014, with (from left) Emily Carter, Caroline Mulligan and June Oscar. Photo: Jason McCarthy.

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