Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps – Baiame’s Ngunnhu

Recently I had the privilege to spend some time with an Aboriginal Community Controlled organisation near Brewarrina. It also meant I had some time to have a look around the far West of NSW, a part of Australia I don’t often get to. The rivers out West are a bit low at the moment, but still absolutely gorgeous. These photos are from the Brewarrina Aboriginal Fish Traps.

The information below is from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The traditional Aboriginal fish traps at Brewarrina, also known as Baiame’s Ngunnhu [pronounced By-ah-mee’s noon-oo], comprises a nearly half-kilometre long complex of dry-stone walls and holding ponds within the Barwon River in north west NSW. The fish traps are the largest group recorded in Australia and are arranged in an unusual and innovative way that allowed fish to be herded and caught during both high and low river flows. According to Aboriginal tradition, the ancestral creation being, Baiame, generated the design by throwing his net over the river and, with his two sons Booma-ooma-nowi and Ghinda-inda-mui, building the fish traps to this design.

Ngemba people are the custodians of the fishery and continue to use and have responsibilities for the fish traps. It is said that Baiame instructed these responsibilities to be shared with other Traditional Owner groups who periodically gathered in large numbers at the fish traps for subsistence, cultural and spiritual reasons. The place is extremely significant to the Aboriginal people of western and northern NSW for whom it is imbued with spiritual, cultural, traditional and symbolic meanings. The creation of the fish traps, and the laws governing their use, helped shape the spiritual, political, social, ceremonial and trade relationships between Aboriginal groups from across the greater landscape. The site was one of the great Aboriginal meeting places of eastern Australia.

The bedrock outcrop upon which the traps are built is a rare geological exposure in an expansive alluvial basin. Study of the outcrop has the potential to contribute to a better understanding of the evolution of the Australian landscape.

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