Kukenarup Memorial Project
Kukenarup is a traditional Noongar camping ground.
Part of this land was taken up by the Dunn family in the 1860s. Resulting conflict in the 1870s and 1880s led to the spearing of John Dunn whose grave is marked and maintained, but Noongar people killed in the subsequent conflict had not been commemorated. Noongars have wanted the Noongar perspective acknowledged to assist in the grieving and healing process.
The Yarramoup Aboriginal Corporation published research by Roni Gray Forrest in 2004 in "Kukenarup – Two stories" which significantly progressed this issue.
Yarramoup and the Ravensthorpe Historical Society then obtained funding from BHP to develop a memorial to acknowledge the past and reconcile the future for Noongar people and the settler community. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) helped facilitate consultation and has now been involved with the project for nearly eight years. Additional funding has subsequently been obtained from the Lotteries Commission WA, DAA heritage grants and the Wagyl Kaip Trust as well as extensive in kind contributions from many groups.
The memorial is located approximately 15 kilometres west of Ravensthorpe on the South Coast Highway in a publically accessible place that overlooks without physically intruding upon the site.
The memorial features walitj wings (wedge tail eagle) in recognition of its role as a totem and carer of the spirits of the deceased and of the gnow (mallee fowl) as another significant totemic creature for the area. On passing through the walitj wings you are met by a sign with the words of Annie Dabb, an Elder with ties to the area. "Now our ancestor's restless spirits can sleep peacefully knowing they are not forgotten and their ordeal is recognized and acknowledged. Through our Past our future grows strong"
Beyond the memorial is the heritage trail featuring plaques from 10 Noongar families outlining what the site means to them. This design allows further signs to be added if other families wish to participate.
DAA heritage grants funded this part of the memorial complex and the contemplative circle amongst a stand of she-oak trees.
The dedication occurred on 21 May 2015 before a crowd of 220 people.
Tapping sticks, made from mungart (jam tree) wood from the Phillips River, brought the assembled crowd together.
A smoking ceremony using local she-oak welcomed people and warded off any bad spirits as the local choir sang a Noongar Language song before the crowd was addressed by Noongar Elders and members of the Ravensthorpe Historical Society. Children from three local schools and Noongar children symbolically removed she-oak branches to open the memorial.
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people have stated how moving the ceremony was and that the process of working together to plan, design and develop the memorial has been as important as the physical structure.
The memorial is now open to the public.