Indigenous History and Culture

Indigenous Australians have occupied the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Australia’s North West for at least 30,000 years. Unlike other early peoples around the world, Indigenous Australians did not build permanent structures or clear the earth to cultivate crops. Their spiritual beliefs and way of life were closely bound to the land, sea and sky. Their monuments and places of worship were the hills, rivers and plains surrounding them.

The Dreaming

The Dreaming is the foundation of Indigenous culture and spiritual beliefs. The ancestral Dreaming spirits, who could change their form into animals, people or any physical feature, travelled across the country shaping the natural environment and establishing the religious and moral systems for Indigenous Australians. They also created the natural environment, and the humans and animal species that populated the land.

When their work was complete, the spirits transformed themselves into hills and other physical features, leaving evidence of their presence in the natural environment, where they still remain a powerful spiritual force for Indigenous Australians.

The Dreaming is also an important source of information for day-to-day survival. Dreaming stories map out the location of water, places to gather food, campsites and significant landscape features, as well as linking distant tribes to other Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Family Language Groups

There is a diverse variety of Indigenous languages and cultures in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. There are over 30 different language groups that can be found here.  

Spiritual Sites and Indigenous Art

The Kimberley and Pilbara regions are covered in a network of Dreaming tracks, as well as historical Indigenous sites including ancient stone structures, ceremonial sites, burial sites and rock engravings. These engravings (known as petroglyphs) depict a wide variety of marine and land animals, and many good examples of  them can be found along the Burrup Peninsula, near Dampier and in Newman.

Indigenous Art Today

Indigenous art is alive and well. The Pilbara and Kimberley are home to many nationally and internationally acclaimed artists, and there are plenty of Indigenous art galleries and Indigenous art centres throughout the region showcasing their work. In some places, you can even watch the artists at work. Search for Indigenous art galleries.

Authentic Indigenous Tours

You can explore Indigenous history and culture by joining one of the many authentic Indigenous tours operating in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions. Search for Indigenous tours.


Historic Indigenous sites are valuable resources. Please help preserve these places for future generations. Avoid touching or stepping on the area, leave no rubbish behind and do not mark the site in any way. See Conservation for more details about caring for the North West's environment.

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