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Nyungah people are concerned about the loss of artefacts and spiritual dreams at Munday Swamp, when the third runway is built. Picture: PERTH AIRPORT

Third runway will destroy Munday Swamp artefacts

NYUNGAH people say development of a third runway at Perth Airport will destroy artefacts and spiritual dreams of Munday Swamp and the surrounding area.

According to the Perth Airport’s own fact sheet on Aboriginal heritage the land on which Perth Airport is located, which includes Munday Swamp, forms part of the traditional network of communication routes, meeting places and camping sites of the Nyungah people. 

The fact sheet said Munday Swamp was an ethnographic site and wetland that covers about 20ha of land in the north-eastern area of the airport estate with a portion of the new runway intersecting the southern portion of the wetland.

It also said the ceremonial and mythological site of importance to persons of Aboriginal descent had been recorded by archaeologists in 1979 and had been the subject of many archaeological and ethnographic surveys.

Nyungah land and culture protector Iva Hayward-Jackson said countless sacred wetlands and natural bushland areas of the Perth Airport land had already disappeared and there had been the deaths of many species of sacred animals including birdlife due to developing the area for the airport.

Mr Hayward-Jackson said Munday Swamp had traditionally been used for hunting turtles and the collection of plant foods and medicines. 

Native plants found in the area included curly banksia, stinkwood, smooth banksia, wattles, paperbarks, jarrah and redgum but he believed an extensive study of all the plants in the area was needed.

“Some plants there are highly endangered species, I am told,’’ he said. 

“Nyungah people still hunt and eat the long neck turtles of the sacred wetlands in the areas. 

“The highly endangered western swamp turtle is still there. 

“This small highly endangered western swamp turtle is also sacred, but is not and has never been a food source.’’

He said once the area was filled with birdlife, goannas, kangaroos and possums.

“There are small pockets of the marsupial, quond, I think is the proper name. 

“They are small, like the quokka on Wadjemup (Rottnest Island), but have a point
ier snout and courser fur or hair – again, highly sacred like the western swamp turtle. 

“They are on the brink of extinction.

“I am told that a small sacred snake is rare and also found in the area.’’

He said the area contained countless ancient quartz scatters. 

“These quartz scatters have all been transported to the sacred Munday wetlands by ancient Aboriginal ancestors for the use of cutting edge materials and for spear heads. 

“You can also find a substance that was used during and together with the times of the ancient quartz – known as chert. 

“Chert is a much more easily shaped and sharpened substance that was later used by our ancestors. 

“Chert could only have been obtained from the area between where the beachfront and Wadjemup is today – under the ocean, at least 10,000 years ago before the rising of the sea level.’’

Perth Airport chief executive officer Kevin Brown said as part of the new runway project proposed to be operational by 2025, Perth Airport was committed to minimising impacts to Munday Swamp, including constructing secure fencing between Munday Swamp and Abernethy Rd to control illegal access, camping and dumping in the area, installing water quality and nutrient stripping basins to improve water quality entering the swamp and reconnecting surface water flows from Poison Gully to Munday Swamp to restore the natural system.

It was also committed to maintaining access for traditional custodians to Munday Swamp for traditional activities such as hunting for turtles, engaging traditional custodians to monitor project works, developing an Aboriginal business participation program and conducting cultural ceremonies at key milestones of the project such as the start of works and formal opening. 

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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