National Heritage List inscription date 24 February 2011
Wilgie Mia in the Weld Ranges of Western Australia demonstrates the importance of ochre in Aboriginal society and is the largest and deepest underground Aboriginal ochre mine in Australia. Ochre from Wilgie Mia was traded over a large area and was the most extensive pre-contact ochre network recorded in Australia.
In Wajarri Aboriginal people’s tradition, Wilgie Mia was created by an ancestral being, Marlu, the red kangaroo. The different coloured ochres relate to the different parts of Marlu’s body: the red ochre is his blood, the yellow ochre is his liver, and the green ochre his gall. This is the only known tradition to account for the different coloured ochres that occur within the one site.
The stories associated with Wilgie Mia and its creation, remain an important part of the Wajarri people’s tradition. Ochre is still traded for use in traditional ceremonies including important Law ceremonies.
Wilgie Mia is a men’s site and access has been controlled through tradition and ritual. Access to the site is restricted.
Wilgie Mia has the most complete records of the rituals and ceremonies associated with ochre mining in Australia. In particular, the prohibitions and rituals that underpinned traditional mining are known as is the role of the Mondong, the malevolent spirits that protect the ochre.
The mining techniques used by Aboriginal people at Wilgie Mia included 'stop and pillar' techniques to provide increased safety when mining underground, and the use of pole scaffolding with wooden platforms to allow the local Aboriginal people to extract ochre from different heights in the rock face at the same time. These techniques have not been recorded at other traditional Aboriginal ochre mines.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Wilgie Mia Aboriginal Ochre Mine national heritage listed place
The Indigenous values of the Wilgie Mia Aboriginal Ochre Mine 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).