A new era of Western Australian rock art research is about to begin with the signing of an agreement between Rio Tinto and The University of Western Australia for a five-year funding arrangement for rock art research.
The funding will support UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management which carries out research, education and training for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Pilbara Indigenous communities and with Indigenous ranger groups, as well as with other organisations who manage the State’s rock art estate.
It will also help the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and the State and Federal Governments in their quest to gain World Heritage Listing of the Dampier Archipelago, known as Murujuga.
The five-year (2019–2024) Rio Tinto-UWA agreement will deliver:
- Resourcing for research, teaching and technical staff appointments.
- New knowledge about key research areas.
- Better understanding of the relative significance of individual rock art sites and regions in the Pilbara.
- Sharing of research databases with Indigenous partners.
- Outreach activities to disseminate significant research to the public.
Professor Jo McDonald, Rio Tinto Chair of Rock Art Studies and Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research and Management at UWA, said the new agreement demonstrated the commitment of Rio Tinto and the agreement partners to protect and preserve WA’s rock art.
“This funding agreement will allow us to expand our knowledge about rock art but more importantly it will ensure ongoing collaboration with host Aboriginal communities too,” Professor McDonald said.
“As well as building on the important work we have done in the National Heritage-listed Dampier Archipelago, we will be developing rock art programs with four more Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara,” Professor McDonald said.
“This will not only add to our knowledge base about WA’s rock art collection, but it will ensure that we are all better equipped to preserve and manage one of the State’s unique assets.”
Rio Tinto chief executive Iron Ore, Chris Salisbury said the agreement continued the strong partnership between Rio Tinto, UWA and the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (MAC), to better understand and protect the cultural and heritage values of the Dampier Archipelago.
“In addition to this funding commitment, we are playing an active role in progressing the State Government’s Murujuga Rock Art Strategy, to inform decisions on the management and protection of Murujuga rock art, to ensure the rock art remains accessible to tourists and the general public, and is preserved for future generations,” Mr Salisbury said.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater said the agreement was important for the preservation of the State’s rock art and Aboriginal story telling.
“The custodians of the land inscribed their story onto the land itself,” Professor Freshwater said.
“They told a story of land and landscape, history and society, beliefs and ideas. The story is as complex and fascinating as the people who created it. They left their signs for us; they still sing to us from the rocks.”
Rio Tinto’s partnership with UWA spans more than two decades, numerous faculties and many individuals from academia and business. It crosses subjects as diverse as geomechanics, exploration targeting, environmental mitigation, rock art research, education, girls in engineering, safety and the arts. This partnership is an example of how Rio Tinto works with local communities and partner organisations to deliver long-term benefit to the communities in which we operate.