Kimberley Traditional Owners unite for the Fitzroy River


14th November 2016

In response to increasing development pressure, Kimberley Traditional Owners have pledged to work together to protect and manage the Fitzroy River and its tributaries, one of the most iconic wild rivers in Western Australia.

During a two-day meeting in Fitzroy Crossing, Traditional Owners agreed upon a Fitzroy River Declaration, aiming to protect the traditional and environmental values that underpin the river’s National Heritage Listing.

The historic declaration identifies eight key steps that Traditional Owners agree are needed to protect and manage the Fitzroy River, including a buffer zone for development, a joint position on fracking, development of a Fitzroy River management plan complemented by an Indigenous Protected Area, and a management body for the river.

Walmajarri Traditional Owner Anthony McLarty said the declaration aims to address concerns of Traditional Owners regarding extensive development proposals currently facing the river and its catchment.

“We know that there are pressures from industry and government to access and use the Fitzroy River, and these pressures have the ability to impact on its many cultural and environmental values,” Mr McLarty said.

“We are also concerned that the cumulative impacts of development along the river will not be managed or considered appropriately by the Western Australian Government.

“The Fitzroy River is one living system. The river gives life and has a right to life, and we are determined to protect it for current and future generations.”

Bunuba Traditional Owner Keith Bedford said the declaration demonstrates that native title rights of Traditional Owners are central to the ongoing management and protection of the entire Fitzroy catchment.

"As native title holders and claimants, Kimberley Aboriginal people respect each other’s autonomy, but we are also committed to working together to better manage and look after the river system,” Mr Bedford said.

Nyikina Mangala Traditional Owner Dr Anne Poelina said the Fitzroy River Declaration sends a clear message to government and industry that Traditional Owners are prepared to stand together for the future of this globally unique living water system.

“We want to see the Fitzroy River and catchment protected all the way from its head to its tail, and we will work together to make sure there are strong measures in place that achieve this goal.

“We invite industry, government, and other stakeholders to work with us in achieving this outcome.”

In 2011 the entire Fitzroy River catchment was added to the National Heritage Listing by the Australian Government because of its exceptional natural and cultural value to the nation, joining other iconic sites such as Uluru and Purnululu National Park. The Fitzroy River is also listed as an Aboriginal Heritage Site under the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The Fitzroy River Declaration sets a national standard for native title rights and the role of Traditional Owners as being fundamental to the management of the environment and informed decision making about development.

For any interview requests please call Monique Paschke, Media Coordinator, on 0408 436 987.

Download the Media Statement - DOCx [ 1.6 MBs ]


Learning About The Liyan


"...In late July, I joined a group of 24 travellers from across Australia to explore the Kimberley for a week. But this wasn’t any tourist trip, we were meeting and staying with Traditional Custodians to hear their stories and understand their fight for land. And what an eye- opening trip it was!" - read more

Nyikina Cultural App

The Nyikina Cultural App project is on target and we are hoping to have an operational app within a few weeks that anyone can access via the Apple App Store and also for Android users too. This is a just a quick update to assure you we are hard at work in the background on this important community resource.



"...Loongkoonan only took up painting in her mid-90s, embracing it with such originality, confidence and dedication her work soon found its way into museums and private collections."

She only took up the paint brush in her-mid 90s.

And now, at what she calls the “still very lively” age of 105, Aboriginal Australian artist Loongkoonan is being honored with the first international exhibition of her work, minutes from the White House.

The woman who inspired the show Yimardoowarra: Artist of the River is an indigenous elder and matriarch from the west Kimberley region in Western Australia — Nyikina country or the country of the river, named the Fitzroy by European colonizers.

Read more - New York Times


Text from the above poster:

"...Executive producers Madjulla Inc. and Big Mama Productions Present - The Ngalyak and the Flood - A Franco-Australian Creation - With the participation of the Bronnert and St Julian Schools (France), and Kimberley schools (Australia)."

France – Australia: Coming Together

From the Mardoowarra to the Meuse…

In 2014 we started to work on a joint project between the towns of Broome in Western Australia, and Charleville-Mézières in France, to foster a relationship between the two towns.

Dr. Anne Poelina and Ian Perdrisat had met with Gilbert-Philippe Vaillant (writer and story-teller), Philippe–Kimberley Vaillant (townplanner-geographer), Jean-Pierre Lemant and David Nicolas (archaeologists) on their first trip to Charleville-Mézières in 2014.

The objective of this meeting was to explore the similarities between two stories set around two rivers. One river in France - the Meuse River, which runs through Charleville-Mézières, and the Fitzroy River, or Mardoowarra for Nyikina people, in Australia, which runs near the remote Nyikina and Walmajarri Aboriginal community of Looma in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Looma community was named after “Looma”, in Nyikina language, which is the name of the blue-tongue lizard featured in the story.  

The creation story from Australia is from the Nyikina Aboriginal people. It relates the story of the Ngalyak mother (blue-tongue lizard), who dies while trying to save her children from the flood. They wait for her to return and become part of the landscape. The other story from France/Belgium is of the Bayard horse, who saved four young men, and who also became part of the landscape.

The friendship between the countries was sealed at this meeting by the sharing of water from each river.

Gwendolyn (Gwen) Knox, of Big Mama Productions, was approached by Dr. Anne Poelina (from the Nyikina Community) and Phillipe Vaillant from Charleville-Mézières, to put together a puppet performance telling the story of the Ngaliak mother and her children.

This was done in preparation for the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes in 2015 to foster the developing friendship between Charleville-Mézières and the West Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Our participation in the 2015 festival is all the more poignant as 2014 marked the beginning of the 100-year commemoration of the First World War, and in particular Australia’s involvement on the “Western Front” in the Ardennes from 4th August 1914.


The Green tree frogs call in the rain. They perform acrobatics talking about unions and families. This worries the green ants a lot, who start to run around to prepare for the impending flood. The Brolgas hear the frogs and start their courtship dance. The flying foxes who are hanging in their trees complain about the noise and each other. The mother blue tongue lizard wakes up and gives birth to her babies, and takes them on a journey to escape the impending flood. She struggles to find a high hill to put her babies to safety.

The flying foxes take flight at sunset and confuse her. The frogs are very happy that the flood is coming and splash about in the rising water filled with diatoms. The mother manages to place her babies on a high hill but she is washed away to become a sand dune. The babies wait and wait for their mother to return. They wait so long that they turn into stone.

The frogs, ants, Brolgas and diatoms continue their annual cycle of courtship and flooding as long as it doesn’t get interrupted by major climatic changes and environmental degradation.

For more details about this important production please direct all correspondence and inquiries to Dr. Anne Poelina and Ian Perdrisat at:


Madjulla Inc
PO Box 2747
Broome WA 6725


+61 (0)408 922 155


Photos From The Trip

Post Event - Gallery 1

Post Event - Gallery 2

Post Event - Gallery 3

Defence Of Country

Defence of Country: Aboriginal people dealing with the impacts of globalisation in Australia. 'Success Stories' Session with Dr Anne Poelina, Nyikina Mangala, WA

Women Of High Degree

The film 'Women Of High Degree'  was screened on NITV, Australia Tuesday, 6th October at 7:30PM AEST.

This film retraces the stories of three Nyikina Sisters, Lucy Marshall, Jeanie Wabi and Anne Poelina. This is a compelling account of their story now available - pre-view trailer below.


Short Synopsis

Three Sisters, Women of High Degree is the result of 7 years of collaboration and filmed conversations between three Yimardoowarra Marninil, Nyikina women from the Fitzroy River, Lucy Marshall, Jeannie Wabi, and Anne Poelina, and French-Australian filmmaker Magali McDuffie. For over 30 years, Lucy, Wabi and Anne have been implementing cultural actions to create sustainable economies in their communities for future generations, and to protect their kandri, language and culture. Inscribing the women within their cultural landscape through their river stories, and spanning over 80 years and three generations, this film also retraces the recent history of the Kimberley through the sisters’ lived experiences of slavery on pastoral stations, and reveals the women’s agency in response to various government policies. Highlighting the use of film as a tool of empowerment, Three Sisters looks at the contemporary engagement of the women politically, at a local, national, and international level, in an increasingly neo-liberal context, with, in the background, the ever-increasing threat of massive industrialisation of the Kimberley region by multi-national mining corporations – the new colonisers.


Full Synopsis 

Settled more than a hundred years after Sydney because of its isolation, it was only in the 1880s that the Kimberley region of Western Australia witnessed the arrival of settlers in search of land for their cattle or their sheep.  Where once waterholes had sustained numerous Aboriginal family groups, fences went up, Aboriginal people were enslaved to work on the stations, or brought into the towns of Derby and Broome. The ones who dared to protest were imprisoned. Worse, massacres were committed, which are still in Nyikina Elders’ living memory. Mick Michael Wiljaniny, a Senior Walmajarri Elder, tells us the story of his imprisonment in the film, quietly, calmly, without a trace of bitterness in his voice...

 The missionaries also came, evangelising Aboriginal people, putting them in missions to "protect" them, from which many did not come out... Diseases, such as leprosy, also ravaged Aboriginal nations…

Lucy and Wabi are part of the generation of people who grew up on pastoral stations, and who was subjected to forced labour in exchange for tea, blankets, and sugar… Despite the violence, privations, and the absolute control pastoralists had on their Aboriginal workers, they were still living on their land and continued to practice their traditions, ceremonies, and to speak their language ... In the 1960s, Australia witnessed a change – at the same time as the Civil Rights movement takes shape in the United States, the movement for equality of Aboriginal workers is organized. They become citizens of Australia, acquiring equal pay rights. But Kimberley Aboriginal people will not directly benefit from this new-found “equality”. Unable to pay their Aboriginal workers the normal wages of white men, the pastoralists send them away. They gather near cities, hoping to get work, or any other support. This exodus from their ancestral lands will of course have the disastrous consequences we know today: homelessness, violence, alcoholism, psychological trauma...

But even then, again, the culture survives. Anne Poelina, a generation later, is Nyikina, born not on her country, but in Broome, where many Aboriginal people gathered after they left the stations. Born of the union of a Nyikina mother, and a Timorese father, she represents this new multicultural generation, aware of its roots, but also very much part of the wider world. Anne grows up in Broome, but, spending time in the bush, on Nyikina country, she learns the stories of the Elders, her language, and refuses to submit to the ideology of the time, constantly being told that Aboriginal people are "good for nothing". She studies nursing and then, encouraged by her success, goes on to gain three Masters Degrees, and more recently, a PhD.

Films have been the chosen medium of Nyikina people for over twenty years. Originally, to document their traditions and culture, and later, to access funding of international philanthropic organisations, but most importantly, educationally, to share their culture, explain their initiatives on the ground, and to encourage dialogue between the Elders and the Youth. "These films are a way for us to exist, to assert our identity, to tell the world who we are, that we are here, and that this is what we do," said Anne often.

Magali McDuffie has been working with Aboriginal communities for the last 10 years, first on the East Coast, then, following a series of meetings and coincidences, and an invitation by Nyikina women, in the Kimberley. "When I arrived in Broome 7 years ago, in summer, in the tropical heat, I thought I would be staying only for two weeks to make a film with the community, and then leave for new horizons ... It has now been 8 years, I go back and live there often, and it changed my life. " 8 years ago, there was a positive atmosphere in the Kimberley - many projects implemented by Nyikina Inc. and Madjulla Inc., at the initiative of Lucy and Anne, had been very successful. Nyikina language programs, in particular, were very popular - Wabi, as the Nyikina LanguageRepresentative in KALAAC, has worked closely with a linguist, Colleen Hattersley, for many years to produce an interactive dictionary of the Nyikina language and a Nyikina Language Software Package, in collaboration with an Australian university. With Anne, they also published books of Nyikina stories. Fighting poverty through art, culture, language, and economic initiatives for sustainable development in the communities – a culture and conservation economy: these were the objectives of the three sisters, as successive government policies of assimilation, integration and self-management had only made the situation worse.

Unfortunately, a threat was looming over the Kimberley. The region was rich in precious metals, coal, gas and other raw materials. Suddenly there was talk of coal mines along the Mardoowarra, Fitzroy River, shale gas exploration, and of the establishment of one of the largest gas-processing plant north of Broome, at Walmadan – James Price Point. The three sisters, who had up until then been involved in their respective communities at a local level only, immediately saw the need to share their struggle to protect their culture and their country, on which, even with recently-acquired Native Title Rights, they still have no rights, in 2015: the community can negotiate with the mining companies, but certainly does not have a right of veto. 

The films of the three sisters, therefore, took on a more political, activist dimension - seeking allies internationally, two of our films were screened at the UNESCO Human Rights Commission in 2012. Anne also signed the Redstone Statement in the United States in 2010, where she met Dr Jonathan Hook, a Cherokee environmental philosopher, who is interviewed in our film, during his visit in Kimberley in 2010.

These films do not only bear witness to the strength of Nyikina Culture – they also reveal an unequal fight between diametrically opposed views of development, those of the Western world against those of Indigenous world. In the final analysis, they also tackle a much wider picture of the world, as mentioned by Anne in the film: "we are all being colonized: it is not a black or white question any longer." Anne has become, in recent years, an activist, or actionist, as she prefers to call it, recognized not only in Australia, but throughout the world, and participated in many other film projects, for instance in Eugenie Dumont’s film, Heritage Fight, and another documentary by Thalassa (French Television) about the industrialisation of the Kimberley region.  

 This film, Three Sisters, Women of High Degree, retraces the fascinating journey of the three sisters, and through them, the recent history of Kimberley and the impacts of excessive industrialisation. It is their message to the world: "We are still here. We know who we are, we know our culture, we can run the country. We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder" (Lucy Marshall).

A New Home

Madjulla Inc. now has a new home!

In early August, 2015 Alexander Hayes approached Dr. Anne Poelina and Ian Perdrisat offering to build a dynamic web presence. This contribution is to ensure the important work and achievements of the Nyikina community are made accessible via the world wide web.

This website will now enable Madjulla Inc to facilitate crowd funding via internet connections, engage people from all over the world in understanding everything with this organisation including news, media releases, resources and daily activities.

New logos, banners and web compliant mobile enabled features will soon be released via this location. It will be a live build and open for all to see the development of this important online resource.

There will also be an online store to sell products and merchandise through, a projects page, high resolution photos galleries, video resources and a podcast page for visitors. To learn more about these initiatives please contact Anne Poelina or Ian Peridsat for more details.

Old Madjulla Inc. website - screenshot