Voyages of Grand Discovery
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In Search of the Great Southland
Past Before Time
Dirk Hartog
Willem de Vlamingh
William Dampier
Nicolas Baudin
Saint Alouran
Matthew Flinders
de Freycinet
Lines of Fate

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 land.

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