Waterhole mapping and waru work

Rangers have been involved in successful helicopter mapping activities to relocate waterholes out of Punmu and Kunawarritji. The work was combined with waru (fire) work to look after the country.

Punmu rangers

The Punmu rangers completed a successful week of waterhole mapping and fire work, working closely with KJ field staff and Leigh Sage from the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DBCA WA). The week was led by the strong support of senior Martu elders, who generously provided expert knowledge and cultural authority to the team. It was a privilege to have elders Mulyatingki Marney, Minyawu Miller, Nyanyjapayi Chapman and Waka Taylor come out to Punmu for the week, supported by younger family members.

At the lakehouse (Punmu ranger station), rangers helped with remote mapping – taking turns to support in the helicopter. Dry conditions over summer made it especially difficult to locate sites in the tuwa (sandhill) country. Successfully, one site to the north west was located after several hours searching: a rockhole of high importance (Juntiwa). There were many young community members who came down to the ranger station throughout the week to see what everyone was up to, with kids watching by the sideline as rangers did burning work or listening to stories.

Alongside mapping activities, throughout the week, over 24 rangers were engaged with fire activities, working into the late evenings to skilfully complete ground burning around community to put in fire breaks. KJ also supported aerial burning operations, with the aim to break up the landscape in more remote parts of country.

Punmu now has five fully trained bombardiers including two female rangers, all who have demonstrated confidence, skill and a passion for burning work.

With thanks…

A huge thanks to Leigh (DBCA) and also KJ’s Dan Johanson for their expertise and support in this area. Thanks to Ned Booth for his support with incendiary training and guidance throughout the week, and all of the rangers for your enthusiasm and teamwork, help translating, recording stories and making cups of teas for the old people – kunyjunyu!

Kunawarritji rangers

Martu elder, Fred Ward, from Patjarr community made a special visit to Kunawarritji for the kalyu (waterhole) mapping trip and to undertake an aerial burning survey. He joined Martu elder Kumpaya Girgiba and her granddaughter Noelene Oates alongside the Kunawarritji Rangers. The team set up camp on rirrar (rocky) country, southeast of Kunawarritji, along the Gary Highway bush track.

On the first day, Kumpaya and Noelene revisited Papuly jurnu (soak) before flying northeast from Kunawarritji following the main yinta (permanent waterholes) along the stock route. From there, they flew east where a large wirrkuja (rock hole) was spotted. Kumpaya recognised this as Pujinya – she was last there when she was a ‘little bit big one’ – around 8 to 10 years old. She remembers that there was good hunting to the north when the wirrkuja was full of water – marlu (kangaroo), pujikatu (cat) and parnajarrpa (sand goanna).

On the second day, Mr Ward re-located Tarltiwara wirrkuja, a large rock hole nestled in a creek in the far south of Martu country. Mr Ward talked about spending time at the site with his family when he was “a big boy” and shared stories from pujiman days. The visit inspired Mr Ward to look for a walking line linking rock holes to the east, and although it was not possible this time, the rangers have begun discussing a cross-country trip through the area with ranger teams from multiple communities and organisations.

On the return flight to camp Mr Ward spotted a jurnu located on Kumpaya’s country. Kumpaya went up on the next flight to check out this jurnu – she spent a few minutes looking around before yelling out ‘Mukurlan!’. This is a very special find as elders and rangers have previously looked for Mukurlan unsuccessfully. It is a yinta (permanent waterhole) – sitting in a grassy depression surrounded by paperbark trees.

As Kumpaya stood over the yinta, she recalled each of her mothers’ names who had been there last with her. From there, Kumpaya instinctively directed the helicopter straight to Kayamann wirrkuja which Noelene picked out amongst a rubbly rocky hill. In pujiman times, the family followed a walking line linking Mukurlan to Kayamann and heading further north.

On the third day, Kumpaya and Noelene flew east from the camp and found Tajilan wirrkuja. This is a small wirrkuja sitting atop another rock. Kumpaya says there is a larger wirrkuja of the same name in the area, but it couldn’t be found on either a ground or air search. They continued looking far to the east along this walking line – but no other kalyu were found this day.

On the fourth and final day, the rangers did some ‘recce’ flights to the north of Kunawarritji with the rangers looking for a group of wirrkuja and two jurnu. Prior to the flight, Kumpaya described to the rangers in a sand-drawing what to look for – two rocky hills with a jurnu laying in-between. They found some promising areas for Kumpaya to flyover for the next flight. Kumpaya and ranger Christopher James found Kurmintiminti wirrkuja and Wawurlka wirrkuja, as well as revisiting some waterholes previously found.

Another wirrkuja was also found to the west of Kunawarritji in tali (sandhill) country. Kumpaya was too tired to visit there herself but a group of rangers did go look at it, photograph and film it to show her back in Kunawarritji. The rangers plan to make a track there so Kumpaya can visit soon.

It was a very special trip with the family and rangers making the most of having two elders on country. Around the campfire at night, Kumpaya and Mr Ward shared knowledge about pujiman walking lines, the names and stories of kalyu, and the ancestral connections to these places. During the day, Noelene and the rangers recorded stories with Kumpaya and Mr Ward at waterholes and back at camp.