Songs For The Kimberley

No Land Grab – Melbourne group presents:

Songs for the Kimberley

This is a special Melbourne event in the on-going campaign against the Western Australian government’s compulsory acquisition of traditional lands on the Kimberley coast, near Broome W.A.

‘Apart from the obvious environmental impact of this proposed industrialisation, which has been well documented, the significant issue of the preservation of our aboriginal cultural and spiritual heritage, has not been given due consideration.

The Law and Song Cycles of Walmadan are not ancient history, but present-day fact.

This Law has been kept alive through my grandfather Paddy Roe and now through me.

If this threatened development goes ahead, our country is gone forever.

Our country holds our Heritage, including our burial sites, and most importantly the Song Cycle that runs through this country from the north of the Dampier Peninsula, south to Bidyadanga, the area below Roebuck Bay.

Your voice can draw attention to this great plight and help protect our ancient and sacred Song Cycles – Bugarigaara (Dreamtime). Thank you.’

Joseph Roe

Law Keeper and Custodian

Northern Tradition, Goolarabooloo People.

Saturday the 20th of November 2010, (1pm – 10pm).

Venue: ‘J-Studios’ Artists’ Community

100 Barkly Street, North Fitzroy, (between St. Georges Rd & Nicholson St.)

Admission: $15 waged, $12 concession, $5 kids, entry on the day.


As a Law Boss, it is Joe Roe’s major responsibility to ensure that traditional Cultural knowledge (‘the Law’) is passed down via ceremony to succeeding generations, in order to keep the Country and its people safe. This body knowledge is preserved and kept alive within a cycle of songs that preserve the very earliest living memory of place, including palaeontologic history. Its older songs relate to the process of creation, the Dreamtime, or ‘Bugarigaara’, since the belief is that people have arisen from this continent itself, not migrated from elsewhere.

The extent of Joe’s primary responsibility of care as Custodian of the Law lies between Minyirr (Broome) and Bindiangoon (Yelllow River), 80 kms north. Within this span, this ‘Northern Tradition’ Song Cycle connects to specific sites ( Law Grounds, water places, ‘increase sites’ and significant landmarks) in a continuous linked system up the coast. From just north of Broome, it in turn connects to another that crosses east, from sunset country, to sunrise country.

The lay of this land and its history, has been sung for centuries at ceremony time, by lawmen in places as far distant as Uluru and Byron Bay, even though the singers may never have actually made the physical journey across the continent.

This is a dynamic, on-going relationship. Country needs to be sung regularly to revive and replenish. The place must be burnt regularly in cool time, to be more easily travelled through and made abundant in green shoots for the animals traditionally hunted. Water holes need to be kept open.

One must look after the Country, treat it with respect, engage with it through songs and action, to be sustained by it. This relationship is the foundation of one’s sense of identity, spiritual and physical health and self-esteem.  From an indigenous perspective, Country unacknowledged by people and left unmanaged, becomes dangerous and wild.

21 years ago, Joe Roe’s grandfather, Paddy Roe, established the Lurujarri Heritage Trail, an annual 9-day walk intended as a bridge of cultural exchange between his Goolarabooloo people and the wider community, Australian and international. Visitors to that country stay in the same camping places and fish the same reefs as its traditional owners have used for millennia, and are taught how best to look after the place. Walmadan (near James Price Point) is one of these camp sites.

Since its inception, thousands of people have traveled to Broome to participate in the Lurujarri Trail.  Paddy Roe’s standing and his work for the community over several decades was recognised in 1990, when he was awarded the Order of Australia Medal.  He passed away in 2001. Before his passing, the responsibility of Traditional Custodian and Law-Keeper had been passed on via ceremony, to Joseph.

Colin Barnett’s LNG Gas Precinct Proposal (with exclusion and buffer zones surrounding a cleared area encompassing 3600 hectares, and to be utilised for between 30 and 100 years) would render the continuance of the Lurujarri Heritage Trail untenable.


The damage to the Kimberley’s last remaining environmental treasures would be irreversible – to its whale migration paths, dugong, turtle and migratory shorebird habitat, and critically endangered monsoon vine thickets.  Leading world specialist in dinosaur locomotion and footprints, Dr. Tony Thulborn, has termed the 80-kilometre “dinosaur trackway…a scientific treasure, unparalleled anywhere else in the world.“

The sustainable and thriving aboriginal cultural tourism ventures that proliferate all across the Dampier Peninsula would be significantly impacted.

The Goolarabooloo people, Paddy Roe’s descendants, are still actively engaged in looking after this Country, despite living within a western world that would have them sell it, for the greater economic resources of the nation and the global corporations.

The site-specific cultural heritage as it has arisen directly from this coastline, cannot be relocated or put on hold while Country is destroyed for Industry.

No amount of compensation could replace it.

The incentives of money offered have stimulated great rifts within the local aboriginal community, between those who believe the Government line:

that the Gas refinery will bring them jobs and prosperity, at odds with those convinced that Culture cannot exist without Country, and that access to health and educational services afforded wider Australia should not be beholden to the giving up of their country for industry,

Since WA Premier Colin Barnett declared that negotiations had reached a stalemate and recently began the process to compulsorily acquire the land, former Australian of the Year and Indigenous Academic, Mick Dodson has attacked this move a further act of colonialism and theft of Aboriginal lands.

It makes a mockery of Kevin Rudd’s recent “Sorry Day ”pledges.

Greens leader, Bob Brown recently visited Walmadan with present day Law Boss, Joseph Roe, who staunchly opposes any industrial development on this site. Bob Brown has subsequently vowed to stand alongside him, to fight to ‘protect it as it is’, until his ’last breath.’

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