Martu Country- aerial photographs
The vast expanses of the desert, ancient waterways, salt flats and ridges of sand hills feature in this series of aerial photographs of Martu country. An accompanying animated map details the layered complexity of the Western Desert, showing family travel routes and the movement of the Martu rangers as they care for country. Martu traditional knowledge is visible in the astonishing proliferation of named water sites, while satellite imagery and Digital Elevation Mapping reveal the underground flow lines that feed these water sources.
Mapping Martu Country- animated wall map
This region of the Great Sandy, Gibson and Little Sandy Deserts is the traditional country of several language groups known collectively as the Martu. The animated Wall Map shows a simplified chronology of the climatic and human factors that have impacted on their country.
The Percival Lakes and Lake Disappointment (Kumpupirntily) are the remains of an ancient waterway (palaeo-channel) that flowed from the Northern Territory through to the West Australian coast.
Around 300,000 years ago a series of ice ages began to dry out the Australian continent, and the palaeo-systems receded and went underground. The blueveining at the beginning of the sequence indicates the locations of thoseancient water systems, which continue to feed many of the springs andwaterholes that exist today.Glowing blue dots represent many but not all the named water sources.
40,000+ years ago the first people arrived, bringing with them the burning practices that assisted hunting and promoted the growth of useful plants. Footprints and fire represent this.Indigenous culture continued to evolve, establishing clan and language boundaries and a complex cosmology, indicated on the map by the painting overlays.
In the 1880s and 1890s David Carnegie and other explorers described this country as a waterless wasteland. Glowing green dots show the proliferation of water sites known to the Martu, a few of which were revealed to the explorers.
Between 1906 and 1910 Alfred Canning established a stock route to bring cattle from the Kimberley to the southern goldfields, sinking wells at the sites of permanent waterholes. These wells follow the path of one of the ancient water channels. This period marks the beginning of Martu encounters with white men.
In the 1960s the few remaing Martu living a traditional life in the desert were relocated to Jigalong.In the 1970s and 80s the remote Indigenous communities of Punmu, Parrngurr and Kunawarritji were established to allow people to live close to their traditional lands.
In 1987 Martu big boss Billy Gibbs instigated the creation of the Waterhole Map, showing many but not all the named water sources, as the basis of the Martu land claim. This was completed in 1988 with the assistance of Sue Davenport and Mitchell Biljabu in consultation with Martu elders.
The Martu organisation Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa was established to facilitate Martu projects. These include the Ranger and Caring for Country teams, which have reinstated traditional land-management practices of burning country and cleaning waterholes.
Helicopters are used to reach inaccessible areas, and modern GPS technology and topographical mapping is used to record routes and locations.
The coloured lines show Ranger tracklogs for 2012, blue indicating the helicopter surveys, red and green showing the 4WD surveys. The burning creates a mosaic pattern across the landscape. The pattern shown on the map is created by fires between April and October 2012.
Mapping Martu Country, 2012, digital animation with sound, 9 minutes
Content Direction: Kim Mahood
Digital Animation: Sam Price and Dominic Pearce
Producer: Erin Coates
Kanyinirnpa Jukurrpa for Waterhole map, Ranger tracklogs and fire information
Geoscience Australia for topographical information
CSIRO for Digital Elevation Map
Google Pro satellite imagery for satellite map
North Australian Fire Information (NAFI) for fire hotspots and scars