Aboriginal Burial Ground

The Rottnest Foundation is actively seeking funds to support the conservation of the Aboriginal Burial Ground on Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

By supporting the repair of this Burial Ground you will be contributing to a significant project which aims to appropriately conserve, protect and respect the existing burial ground by converting its immediate surrounds into reflective parkland, to enable the Aboriginal Story and their connection with the Island (although a very sad connection) to be shared through arts & culture, education and interpretation. It is about recognising and acknowledging an important part of Western Australia’s history and taking the necessary step towards reconciliation and healing for the Aboriginal community.

Current Progress- Implementation of the Wadjemup Aboriginal Burial Ground Project

The Rottnest Foundation is working in partnership with the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA), the Aboriginal community and other interested stakeholders to deliver a three phase project to appropriately acknowledge and recognise the significance of the Aboriginal Burial Ground on Rottnest Island.

20151125 burial ground stage 1 works ABPhase one was funded by the State Government through the RIA and works were completed in November 2015. Phase one included the demolition of intrusive infrastructure within the site, the installation of a pathway around the perimeter to demarcate the boundary of the burial ground and help to protect the site, essential tree pruning, installation of stabilised entry walls and the installation of very basic interpretation at the main entrance. The work was undertaken by Traditional Owners of the site, Whadjuk men working for the landscaping company Indigenous Economic Solutions. Please click here for further information.

PrintPhase two of the project is due to begin late 2016 and is partly funded by Lotterywest in the form of a $500,440 Community Spaces grant awarded to the Rottnest Foundation. Lotterywest funds will be used for a range of interpretation and conservation/planting components to create a simple reflection space and landscape that assists with enhancing the site and educating the community about the history of the site in a meaningful way. A portion of the Lotterywest grant has also been allocated to fund engagement with the Aboriginal community. The RIA will be providing their operational staff in-kind to work in partnership with the Rottnest Foundation to deliver the Lotterywest grant. Please click here for further information.

Rottnest Foundation is actively seeking a further $1.5 million from grants and partnerships for Phase 2 to fund the realignment of the road to the Golf Course (this currently shares a path with the burial ground), development of multiple reflection points within the site inclusive of landscaped seating, horticultural treatment of entrances, screening of unpleasant infrastructure viewable from the Burial Ground perimeter pathway and comprehensive interpretation developed and installed throughout the parkland.

The Rottnest Foundation (RF), the Rottnest Island Authority (RIA), the Aboriginal Community and other affiliated stakeholders will work with what funding we have available and if the aspirational funds cannot be acquired, we can still achieve significant outcomes at the site; it just means that the scope of the project will be reduced to accommodate the level of funding. The site can continue to be upgraded as funds are acquired.

The RIA is currently in the process of setting up an Interim Aboriginal Reference Group for Rottnest Island to guide Phase 2 of the Aboriginal Burial Ground project. This Group will provide input and direction for culturally appropriate strategies and guide the delivery of consultation with Aboriginal people. A representative from this group will sit on the project steering committee (made up of RIA, RF and other stakeholders). The sitting fees for this reference group will be funded by the RIA, accept where the items of discussion are directly related to Lotterywest elements, these will be funded by Lotterywest.

Rottnest Foundation received a letter of support from the Whadjuk Working Party in December 2014 which endorses our involvement with the Wadjemup Aboriginal Burial Ground Conservation Project.

Phase 3 will involve an extensive public art program yet to be planned and funded, where the intention is to have pieces of public art created by Aboriginal artists from across WA and installed within the Burial Ground to represent the 370 plus men that are buried there. Phase 3 cannot start until Phase 2 is complete.

Further Information

Brief History of the Aboriginal Burial Ground on Rottnest Island

IMG_3309Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) was used as an Aboriginal prison between 1838 and 1903. It closed in 1904; however, prisoners remained on the island to build roads and other works until 1931.

Over 3,700 Aboriginal men were removed from throughout WA and sent to Rottnest during this period.

These men were the Elders, the Custodians and the Lore men who were the keepers of order, culture, spiritual integrity and historical record for the Aboriginal community, as well as the protectors and providers for the women and children.

This constituted the removal of ‘the leadership group’ across all Aboriginal nations in WA.

It is recorded that 370 Aboriginal men died on Rottnest Island and lie buried in unmarked graves, at the site known as the ‘Wadjemup Aboriginal Burial Ground’ in the largest deaths in custody gravesite in the country.

This Burial Ground was formally recognised by the Department of Aboriginal Sites in 1985.

Since this date, the Rottnest Island Authority (Land Management Body) has engaged in a series of consultation processes related to the Aboriginal Burial Ground.

The most recent of these processes occurred in 2005-06, when the Rottnest Island Authority engaged an Aboriginal consultant to conduct state-wide consultation with the Aboriginal community to determine their thoughts on how they would like to see this site repaired.

The Concept Plan

IMG_3300From this consultation, a preliminary concept plan was developed which visually demonstrates that converting the site into parkland with the inclusion of interpretation to acknowledge the history and represent the men buried there, is an appropriate way the site can be restored and recognised.

Aboriginal Burial Ground- Concept Plan

It is proposed that the parkland will incorporate the planting of trees and plants pertinent to Aboriginal groups across WA, installation of a small viewing shelter and terrace overlooking the lake, public seating spaces including group seating, interpretative signage about the history of the site at the main entrance and the installation of interpretive icons (e.g. totems & sculptures) to represent the men that are buried at the site. The parkland would provide a public space for people to reflect on the past and where Aboriginal people can come from all over WA to meet, share stories and pay tribute to their ancestors.

This preliminary plan is to be used as a guide to drive the implementation phase.

How you can help!

IMG_3315This project requires substantial financial backing and support to ensure its implementation is a success.

Any donations made would go towards seeing the preliminary concept plan for this site turn into a reality! Find out how to make a donation here.

If you are interested in becoming a corporate partner, please contact the Rottnest Foundation Grants & Sponsorship Coordinator on 0447853820 or email grants@rottnestfoundation.org.au

Why the Rottnest Foundation are Involved

IMG_3305The Rottnest Foundation has joined forces with the Rottnest Island Authority as a major partner to raise funding for the conservation  of the Aboriginal Burial Ground, as we believe the recognition and repair of this Burial site is an important step towards reconciliation and aligns to one of our objectives; to conserve and appropriately interpret the cultural history of Rottnest Island.

Additional Documents

Phase 1- As Constructed Plan-Survey Data 2016 (DWG) PDF)

Map- Showing Size of the Aboriginal Burial Ground