National Heritage List inscription date 3 June 2005
The Ngemba people of Brewarrina used their advanced knowledge of river hydrology and fish ecology to trap and catch large numbers of fresh water fish. The unusual and innovative fish traps, known as Ngunnhu, are still visible in the Darling River, and have strong social, cultural and spiritual association for Aboriginal people with connections to the area.
The story of Baiame's Ngunnhu
According to Aboriginal tradition the ancestral creation being Baiame revealed the design of the traps by throwing his net over the river. He and his two sons Booma-ooma-nowi and Ghinda-inda-mui built the fish traps to this design.
The intricate design of the dry-stone rock weirs and pens allowed large numbers of fish to be herded and caught, particularly during spring migrations. The design also allowed the fish traps to resist damage during both high and low river flows.
While the Ngemba people are custodians of the fishery, maintenance and use of the traps was shared with other tribes in the area, including the Morowari, Paarkinji, Weilwan, Barabinja, Ualarai and Kamilaroi.
Baiame allocated particular traps to each family group and made them responsible for their use and maintenance. Neighbouring tribes were invited to the fish traps to join corroborees, initiation ceremonies, and meetings for trade and barter.
National Heritage listing celebrates the size, design and complexity of the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps, the Baiame creation story and the fish traps’ continuing importance to local Aboriginal people.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps national heritage listed place
The Indigenous values of the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps National Heritage Place are not definitively mapped. Indigenous people are the primary source of information on the value of their heritage and should be consulted on a proposed action likely to significantly impact on the listed Indigenous heritage values of the place and/or on a protected matter that has Indigenous heritage values (like listed threatened species).
Prior to undertaking any action, proponents should contact the appropriate Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of the land on which the action will occur that has listed values that may be significantly impacted, as well as the Aboriginal Traditional Owners and custodians of adjoining lands that may be significantly impacted by the action.
A letter from the appropriate representative bodies declaring that they have been adequately consulted on the action informs the Department that a best practice approach has been undertaken. Further information on Aboriginal representative bodies is available from Native Title Corporations or via local Aboriginal Land Councils. Guidance about best practice Indigenous engagement can be found at Engage early – guidance for proponents on best practice Indigenous engagement for environmental assessments under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).