Fitzroy Crossing emerged from the collision of two worlds. In the closing tumultuous decades of the nineteenth century European pastoral settlers drove their way north. As they mapped out territories for large homesteads and expansive cattle pastures they imposed European traditions and cultural values into the fertile freshwater country of the Bunuba, Gooniyandi and Ngarinyin. It was a time of great upheaval, conflict and bloodshed. Resistance figures, such as Jandamarra a powerful Bunuba man, fought against the invasion of their ancestral homelands. The way Aboriginal people responded to European occupation was complex and dynamic.
In order for Indigenous people to maintain cultural and land owning connections they made difficult decisions to move onto cattle stations, becoming part of an Australian wide indentured labour force. They were simultaneously absorbed into the world of white station owners and continued to travel their countries remaining connected to family and cultural practices. In the late 60s and early 70s, with the enforcement of equal wages, Indigenous people left the cattle stations on mass. Fitzroy Crossing, a small settlement of approximately 300 people, exploded to a population of 2000 in a matter of months.
The Walmajarri, Wangkajunga and Gooniyandi came together on Bunuba country. Once again the Indigenous people of the Fitzroy Valley forged a new existence. They negotiated a previously unknown cultural, spiritual and geographical terrain. Through respect for each other’s country, an appreciation of cultural differences and similarities, and responsibility for one another, the four language groups built communities around the small establishment of Fitzroy Crossing and across the Valley and its ranges.
The 40 communities of the Fitzroy Valley, an approximate population of 3,500, now lives with the change from the dominance of the pastoral industries semi-feudal society, to today’s society, structured around government and other community organisations delivery of services. Still, in the face of these great changes, the people of the valley have found ways to bring their cultural and spiritual identities together. In sharing their stories, speaking their languages and practicing their law and ceremonies, they have formed new protocols to govern their communities and define their co-existence.