Quinkan Country Source: Anne Ferguson
National Heritage List inscription date 10 November 2018
“This is our country. The place of our ancestors. The spirits of the ancestors live here. In the rocks, those sandstone escarpments. Our ancestors made the art you see on the rocks….The pictures and paintings of the past are our link with the present” (George and Musgrave 1995).
Quinkan Country is a dynamic cultural landscape that demonstrates how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples adapt and modify their traditions, kin structures and practices to maintain their connection to country, culture and identity.
Quinkan Country is distinguished from other regions by the richness, size and density of its figurative art and the diversity of Aboriginal paintings and engravings. Although there are many types of Quinkan images, the country is named and best known for its depictions of Quinkan spirit beings, tall slender Timaras and fat bodied Imjims (or Anurra).
Quinkan country is a place with a special association with the life and works of the late Dr Tommy George, Dr George Musgrave, Percy Trezise AM and Dick Roughsey. Their decades of collaborative work continues to educate the broader public and provides a foundation for archaeological work, rock art research and the cultural appreciation of Quinkan Country.
Quinkan Country rock art, and the ongoing collaboration between traditional owners and researchers, continues to provide insights into patterns of human occupation in Australia. These insights inform our understanding of Australia’s rich cultural history, Aboriginal occupation of the north-east region of Australia and the shared wider history of human occupation and subsequent illustration in rock art.
Quinkan Country is located near the small town of Laura in the south-east region of Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland. Beyond Quinkan Country lies the Ringurru (Lakefield) National Park to the north, the Great Dividing Range to the south and the Koolburra Plateau to the west. The Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation has Native Title over a part of Quinkan Country.
The Aboriginal people of the Laura area are known as the Kuku-Thypan, Gugu-Yalanji, Gugu-Yimithirr, Gugu-Warra, Gugu-Ballanji, Gugu-Minni, or Olkola, as well as other names. Evidence of Aboriginal occupation is dated to 34,000 BP and rock art to 27,000 BP.
Over time populations increased, adopted improved stone technology and made more intensive use of occupation sites and resources. These developments that support an increase in the richness and diversity of figurative art in the last few thousand years, are indicative of a major cultural change across Indigenous Australia.
Quinkan Country today
Traditional Owners and cultural custodians maintain their millennia-long association through a dynamic association with Quinkan Country. Cultural lores, laws, and stories are embedded and defined by a diverse assemblage of rock art, deep cultural deposits and in a continuum of cultural features across the landscape.
Selected sites are open for self-guided visits by the public. Tours with local Aboriginal guides can be organised through the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre.
Consultation with Indigenous people about the Quinkan Country national heritage listed place
The Indigenous values of the Quinkan Country 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).