|List||Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)|
|Legal Status||Registered (27/03/2001)|
|Place File No||7/04/002/0002|
|Statement of Significance|
The Arafura Wetlands and Surrounds is a cultural landscape defined and maintained by principally Djinang, Djinba, Ganhalpuyngu,
Mandhalpuyngu, Ritharrngu, Wagilak and some Rembarrnga speaking Yolgnu people.
There are a number of other groups such as the Gupapuyngu and Djambarrpuyngu who have had, and continue to have, strong links to the swamp families and as such are part of the cultural landscape.
More distant groups have connections centred on religious sites called ringgitj.
The Arafura wetlands and surrounds cultural landscape is the product of Yolngu interaction with their environment over time.
The Arafura Wetlands represent the largest freshwater ecosystem in east Arnhem Land andone of the largest contiguous paperbark swamps in Australia. At the end of the wet season the swamp covers an area in excess of 130 000 hectares. The swamp and its catchment comprise a complex mosaic of plant communities. Its striking features include large areas of paperbark open forest, numerous lagoons and their associated flora and fauna, and grass and sedgeland plains over which are scattered numerous fine examples of the spectacular talipot palm (CORYPHA ELATA). Other plant species of interest include LIVISTONA RIGIDA, a fan leaved palm, also known from the Roper River Region; CARPENTARIA ACUMINATA, a feather palm, which is endemic to the northern part of the Top End and known from only a small number of scattered localities; the uncommon wetland herb HANGUANA MALAYANA which occurs in some of the billabongs; and COLOCASIA ESCULENTA (taro), recorded in the Goyder catchment and on the Walker River.
Fringing the wetland are extensive woodlands and patches of monsoon forests undisturbed by buffalo and pigs. Within the catchment of the swamp are found a diverse range of landforms including swamps with undisturbed floating mat communities, sandstone hills, sinkholes and springs.
The swamp provides an important refuge and breeding area for a diverse fauna including both the saltwater crocodile, (CROCODYLUS POROSUS) and freshwater crocodile (C. JOHNSTONII), and abundant waterfowl including the magpie goose (ANSERANAS SEMIPALMATA), green pygmy-goose (NETTAPUS PULCHELLUS), Pacific black duck (ANAS SUPERCILIOSA) and wandering whistling-duck (DENDROCYGNA ARCUATA).The place contains significant breeding rookeries of royal spoonbills (PLATALEA REGIA),little pied cormorants (PHALACROCORAX MELANOLEUCOS), little black cormorants (P. CARBO), several egret species and darters (ANHINGA MELANOGASTER). Land adjacent to the swamp supports one of the largest breeding populations of the hooded parrot (PSEPHOTUS DISSIMILIS) outside the Katherine Area. The spectacular-looking threadfin rainbowfish (IRIATHERINA WERNERI), previously known only from Cape York and New Guinea, occurs in the swamp.
The continuing management of Arafura Wetlands and Surrounds by Yolngu people in an area comparatively undisturbed by introduced animals and plants, or outside economic interests, provides an important insight into the history of the human occupation of Australia. It is also possible to observe the complex interaction between Yolngu culture and the natural environment, which archaeological evidence suggests began many generations ago. Many Yolngu people continue to use traditional hunting and foraging strategies to exploit and manage the natural resources of the place, and the area is one of very few tropical wetlands in Australia still managed by Aboriginal people using traditional land management practices, including formal burning regimes.
Over 700 sites of cultural significance to Yolngu have been recorded in the listed area so far. These include campsites, artefact scatters, quarry sites, rock art sites, fish traps, earth and shell mounds and stone arrangements, religious and named places. The named places significant to Yolngu are often topographical features, with no evidence of physical modification, but with religious and ritual meaning, much of which is known only by senior men. These sites form a network in which the movements of ancestral spirits through the landscape link places together in lines of travel. The network both validates in large part the boundaries of the listed area, and demonstrates the strong religious, social and economic links between the people of the wetlands and those of the catchment area.
Places with religious and spiritual connotations are highly significant places for the Yolngu. Ngilipitji, for instance, an important stone quarry which provided Yolngu clans with high quality stone for the manufacture of spear points, lies within the boundaries of the listed place, and is part of a complex of sites of great spiritual significance.
Many Yolngu value the diverse rock art and stone arrangements found in the listed place for their aesthetic qualities. The landscape as a whole also has aesthetic value for Yolngu and is frequently portrayed in Yolngu works of art and material culture. Examples of these works are housed in major museums and art galleries in Australia and overseas. These pieces are a concrete expression of the significance of the country to traditional owners.
The continued use of traditional land management practices means that the listed place provides a rare opportunity to examine the long term impact of Yolgnu land management on this area of tropical wetland, its catchment and its animals and plants. Research into the practice of regular low level burning, and its effect on local flora and fauna over time, is of particular interest to land management agencies, who hope to gain insights into the proper management of Australia's fragile environment.
The place is also important as the documented location of Aboriginal resistance to European occupation of land. The place contains remnants of the old Florida Pastoral Lease, (1885-1892) and the Arafura Stations (1903-1909). One of the major reasons for the abandonment of these leases was Aboriginal resistance to European activity in the area.
The place has been, and continues to be, the home or domain of many individuals whose activities have been significant within the region, state or nation, especially in the areas of Indigenous leadership and the arts. They include: artists like Mawalan Marika, George Milpurrurru and David Malangi; performers like David Gulpilil and Mandawuy Yunipingu; and, community leaders like David Burrumarra, Gatjill Djerrkura, Wonggu - Djapu and Galarrwuy Yunupingu.
|Official Values Not Available|
The Arafura Wetlands and surrounds are located on the northern coast of Arnhem Land.
They cover an area of 900 square kilometres including the coastal plains. It lies mainly within the country of Djinang, Djinba, Mandhalpuyngu, Ganhalpuyngu, Ritharrngu, Wagilak, although there are some Rembarrnga clans along the western boundary.
The place contains the Arafura Wetlands which is the largest paperbark swamp in Australia. At the end of the wet season the swamp covers an area in excess of 130,000ha. The Goyder and Gulbuwangay Rivers and numerous springs feed the swamp, which is surrounded by low hills up to 100m high. The swamp discharges into the Glyde River, which is tidally influenced for approximately 20kms back from the mouth. It is speculated that the swamp was formed as a result of the surrounding hills closing in at the northern end and forming a natural partial barrier and corresponding narrowing of the flood plain, which in turn restricts the entry of tidal influx.
The coastal floodplain, swamp and surrounding hills support a rich diversity of plant communities. The plains on the coastal side support sedge and grasslands, while the swamp itself is covered by extensive paperbark forest. These grade into eucalypt open forest and woodland, which continue onto the footslopes of the surrounding hills. Tall reedland occurs at the southern end of the swamp where the Goyder River enters, and floating mat communities are found on the billabongs and waterways.
There are large areas of high quality monsoon forest. In the Mirrngadja region there is a considerable number of monsoon forest species otherwise regarded as exclusively coastal in their distribution. Unsurveyed and undisturbed monsoon forest also occurs in the Mitchell Ranges. The swamp is an important refuge and breeding area for birds, fish and crocodiles. The area supports abundant waterbirds including the magpie goose, green pygmy goose, pacific black duck and wandering whistling duck.
|History Not Available|
|Condition and Integrity|
|The Arafura Wetlands and catchment are in a relatively pristine condition, in part due to the remote locality and restricted access to European influences, and difficulties of access for feral animals. Buffalo and domestic and feral cattle are present, although in low numbers. This should remain so with the completion of the brucellosis/tuberculosis eradication campaign in 1992. Surveys in 1989 indicated feral pigs do not occur in the area. The swamp is free of the major noxious weeds common to many Top End habitats such as MIMOSA PIGRA, and the exotic para grass (BRACHIARIA MUTICA), neither of which were in the swamp in a 1991 survey. The fringes of the swamp, coastal grasslands and hinterland are burnt annually in a traditional burning regime. The Ramangining community is re-establishing limited pastoral activities in the vicinity of the old Arafura Homestead.|
|About 600,000ha, in Arnhem Land, 18km south-east of Milingimbi, and surrounding the settlements of Ramingining, Mirringadja, Donydji, Dupuwamirri and Ngilipitji, comprising Arafura Swamp, its eastern catchment and a corridor along the Walker River, enclosed by a line commencing on the eastern side of a track at approximate AMG point 53LMG500465, then southerly by the eastern side of the track around the western end of the White Star Landing Ground to an intersection at approximate AMG point 988405, then westerly by the southern side of that track to the intersection at approximate AMG point 945399, then southerly by the eastern side of that track to the intersection at approximate AMG point 892228, then westerly and southerly by the southern and eastern side of the track to AMG northing 8575000m north (approximate AMG point MF813750), then directly to AMG point 919697, then due south-east to a point 2km due north-east from the middle thread of the Goyder River at approximate AMG point 967649, then southerly and easterly on a line 2km south-west from and parrallel to the middle thread of the Goyder River to AMG easting 524700m east (approximate AMG point NF247340), then via straight lines joining the latter point and following AMG points consecutively: 284271, 365187, NE478075, 480045, 514017, 559969, 646890, 730890, NF730010, 640070, 640140, 570140, 570080, 380300, 380360, 480360, 468450, 558664, 630810, 696932, 713999, 692000, 675069, NG650100, 340180, 200290, 156300, 105433, 076447, 076470 and 000500, then due south to the commencement point.|
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THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE OF THE ARAFURA WETLANDS AND SURROUNDS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT HAS BEEN EXTENSIVELY DOCUMENTED USING AUDIO AND VIDEO TAPE. AT THE REQUEST OF THE YOLNGU TRADITIONAL OWNERS THIS MATERIAL IS HELD ON THEIR BEHALF BY DR NEVILLE WHITE.
Report Produced Thu Dec 12 00:03:15 2013