Learning about ancient Aboriginal Journey Ways

The Aboriginal Journey Ways book is the culmination of the Aboriginal Journey Ways project, a collaboration between Kurongkurl Katitjin, Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research at Edith Cowan University and Main Roads.

Led by Dr Noel Nannup OAM and Dr Francesca Robertson, the team researched and captured traditional selected Aboriginal journey ways that aligned with modern main roads and bridges. The journey ways included songlines, trade routes, migration journeys, family walking trails and ceremonial routes. Just as they are today, many of the documented journey ways were a vital part of everyday life connecting people and communities.

This research was the basis for the book which presents the voices of many Elders and other traditional knowledge holders talking about ancient and recent journeys, their words placed in both an historical and geographic context.

Elders were asked about co-names for roads and in some cases, names were agreed. For example, Albany Highway was given the name Waarkarl Woonya Bidi, meaning road that honours the Rainbow Serpent because it created and connects the two major rivers, Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) and Kalgan Beeliar (Kalgan River).

The snake on the cover of the book recognises the heart of Aboriginal spirituality and pays tribute to the personal spiritual expression shared during the project.

Officially launched at Government House on 22 June 2022, the, Aboriginal Journey Ways book has since been distributed to public libraries, universities, museums, local government authorities and high schools around the state.

The book provides an opportunity to create a dialogue about Aboriginal histories, culture and the connection to our modern-day road network and represents a significant part of Main Roads' reconciliation journey by acknowledging the marginalised and invisible histories that have shaped our roadways.

To share Aboriginal histories, culture and journey ways with a younger audience, a children's version of the book has been produced and is expected to be released late in 2023.