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Archaelogical evidence points to Aboriginal occupation of the North West Cape and Ningaloo coast for at least 30,000 years (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002). Two and probably three tribal gorups occupied the Ningaloo coast and adjacent inland areas. The Jinigudira people inhabited large areas along and adjacent to the northern end of the Cape. The Baiyungu people inhabited coastal and inland areas south of the Cape (WAPC, 2004, CALM and MPRA, 2005, Morse and Wright, 1989) from Quobba to Point Cloates and included the coastal parts of Quobba, Warroora, Ningaloo and Cardabia Stations. The Thalandji people are also believed to have occupied parts of the central Ningaloo coastal area and adjoining land further to the east. The area is important in that it is the earliest recorded area of marine resource exploitation by humans in Australia (LeProvost Dames and moore, 2000, CALM and MPRA, 2005). The journal of two Croatian sailors who survived a shipwreck off the Ningaloo coast near Point Cloates in 1875 with the assistance of two local tribes provides valuable evidence of aboriginal culture at the time of early European occupation of the North West Cape (Rateh, 1990).
The Jingudira were reported to have died out through disease introduced by pearlers and other workers around the time of early European settlement. The Baiyungu, although presumably also affected by disease, remained in the area and took up roles on nearby pastoral stations and in the pearling industry (Morse and Wright, 1989, Turner 1995, in LeProvost Dames and Moore, 2000).
Evidence of aboriginal historical occupation is found in numerous aboriginal sites such as burial sites, areas of geological significance, midden sites and fish traps (LeProvost Dames and Moore, 2000, CALM amd MPRA, 2005). Over 100 sites have been identified in the Cape Range area alone (BHP Billiton, 2005). Aboriginal people would have exploited the area's rich food resources and used the shelter offered by the rock overhangs, cave and gorges of the cape. Unfortunately the indigenous cultural history and culture of the area has not been well documented and much remains to be learned about the area's first inhabitants.
Despite major disruptions to traditional life aboriginal people seek to retain social, traditional and ceremonial bonds with the land. The Baiyungu still have a strong presence in the area and purchase the Cardabia Station lease near Coral Bay in 2004 with the assitance of the Indigenous Land Corporation. The entire Ningaloo coast area and adjoining lands including Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park is subject to a Native Title Claim known as Gnulli Claim (WC97.28, WAD6161/98) (ONT, 2006) made under the auspices of the Yamatji Land and Sea Council (Commonwealth of Australia, 2002).
Information supplied by Colin Ingram, Thesis 280508