Above Gwion Gwion:
A West Kimberley island. Photographer Ray Penrose, 1963.
Western Australian Museum DA AP2008
|For West Kimberley
Ngarinyin people, Gwion Gwion are Ancestral Beings, sometimes
men, sometimes a bird. They remain in country as red painted images on
rock shelter walls and ceilings.
They also offer tantalising
glimpses of a rich cultural heritage and a maritime lifestyle.
In reaching and settling this country the ancestors of the
Aboriginal people rank amongst the first of the world’s
seafarers, explorers and adventurers.
The archaeological record confirms that nearly
50,000 years before scholars even began to think that lands existed
in the Southern Hemisphere the First Peoples established a connection
to the land now called Australia.
Archaeologists believe that
when the ancestors of modern Aboriginal people arrived, they
must have made a sea crossing between the islands of south-east
Asia and the Australian landmass. Because they made this landing
so long ago, it has been said that their first campfires were lit
in ‘a past before time’.
There is speculation about
the type of vessels used in these voyages. Some argue that evidence
exists in the water-craft depicted in rock art of northern Australia,
including images associated with Gwion (Bradshaw) figures. Like
current Kimberley Aboriginal sea-farers who ‘can find that
sea road by the stars and the sound of the moving water’ the
first Aboriginal colonists are believed to have relied on a traditional
body of astronomical knowledge to navigate their way to a new