Three Campsites to Immerse Yourself in Aboriginal Culture

Visit these ‘Camping with Custodians’ campgrounds, on Aboriginal land, and get to know the locals.

Western Australia is home to some of the world’s most stunning campsites. Thanks to a new initiative, it now offers some of the most culturally rich camping experiences too. These three campgrounds are part of the Camping with Custodians program, which gives visitors the chance to stay on land run by Aboriginal communities. So pitch a tent or park the caravan, and settle in with the traditional owners of the area.

Imintji campground, the Kimberley

Imintji means ‘a place to sit down’ in the Ngarinyin language, and this remote Kimberley community is living up to its name more than ever.

Until the 1950s, this was where stockmen taking cattle along the famous Kimberley track, The Gibb River Road, would take a break for a few days. In 2016, the opening of a new campground here ensured that Imintji would continue to be a refuge for travellers.

Imitiji Campground
Photo: Imitiji Campground

For Edna Dale, traditional owner and director of the Imintji Community, the campground is important not just economically, but culturally.

“We always had a dream of doing something like this,” she says. “It gives us financial benefits, and employment, and it’s important to us that we share our culture.”

Imintji also has an arts centre and community store in its location at the foot of the Precipice Range, and Edna would rather be nowhere else.

“Imintji is my traditional home,” she says. “There’s peace and quiet here and the kids can grow up in a happy, healthy environment.”

Jarlarloo Riwi Mimbi campground, the Kimberley

The Mimbi Caves have some stories to tell. And Rosemary Nugget, managing director of Girloorloo Tours, is happy to share them.

“My ancestors used to hide inside the caves to avoid getting taken away to live on pastoral stations,” she says.

“The last one of the group was Limestone Billy. He was caught by an Aboriginal tracker when he left the caves to get some water. That was five generations ago.”

Jarlarloo Riwi campground
Photo: Jarlarloo Riwi campground

Gooniyandi culture here in the Kimberley, near Fitzroy Crossing, goes back a lot further than that – about 40,000 years or so – and the caves, with their limestone formations, pools and fossilised reefs, date back 350 million years.

But visitors can take advantage of a new phenomenon to experience it all: the Jarlarloo Riwi Mimbi campground, which opened in 2017. Explore the incredible caves and learn about the special Indigenous importance of the area.

“We’re very remote here and it’s important to us that we share our culture,” Rosemary says. “People come from all over and they enjoy our company and we enjoy theirs.”

Have a yarn at Peedamulla

You’re a long way from a lot of places at Peedamulla Campground, off the North West Coastal Highway. And the vast vistas and skies of the Pilbara are a big part of the appeal.

But as well as a big dose of wilderness, you’ll get a warm welcome from the Parker family, the Aboriginal owners of the 226,000-hectare (870-square-mile) cattle station on which this new campground sits.

There are ruins to explore, fish to catch along the coast, and wetlands in which to spot wildlife, but “having a yarn around the fire” is one of the biggest attractions, says Caroline Parker, who has lived here since the early 1980s, when her parents took over the station.

Peedamulla Campground
Photo: Peedamulla Campground

Caroline’s son Preston runs tours, while Caroline manages the campground, which opened in September 2017. It provides income for the Jundaru community on the station, and gives tourists “somewhere to get off the highway and have an enjoyable night” between Carnarvon and Karratha, says Caroline.

“It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and people get to learn about our culture,” she says.

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