Burrup depicts the degradation of traditional sites pertinent to Dowling’s people, portraying the possible large-scale destruction of irreplaceable petroglyphs on the Dampier Archipelago. Murujuga or Murijuga, as Burrup is known by local Aboriginal people, is 28 kilometres north-west of Karratha, in one of the most isolated places in Australia, and its Indigenous petroglyphs, numbering between 500 000 and 1 000 000, are distributed over anarea of 88 square kilometres.
Murujuga has been nominated for the national heritage list but is in imminent danger of being destroyed through mining for natural gas, with six liquid natural gas processing plants mooted for the site – with accompanying pipelines – currently being proposed by the State Government. Western Australia has seen a phenomenal mining boom in minerals and natural resources over the past decade. Compounding the complexity of the issue, a number of local Aboriginal groups have recently signed a native title agreement with the State Government. Dowling’s painting conveys the paradoxical situation of Indigenous people having to choose between providing for their communities through exchanging access to traditional lands and keeping those lands.
This painting shows a father and his young daughter standing in the middle of the rock art at Burrup Penninsula in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. In the background shows the Woodside petroleum plant and port.
The rock art at Burrup has not been catalogued in its entirety and yet many have been relocated by Woodside. After much protest, the Federal Government ﬁnally stepped in to declare it a heritage site. Despite this, several rocks are still being moved every week.
This painting is about conﬂict between the cultural signiﬁcance of this place to the Ngarluma people compared with that of the economic appetite of the Australian export industry. It is about the divide between these two value systems.
The images on the rocks reﬂect the two major totems for the area, namely the kangaroo and the spirit creation beings. This rock art is signiﬁcant to world heritage and their desecration is on par with the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Julie Dowling, 2007