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Kakadu & Top End

Kakadu Highlights


Budjalung, or "Sickness Country" is an area of the Upper South Alligator Valley of special importance to the Jawoyn people who own the land. This is where the Bula spirit ended his travels and left his spirit undergound long ago in the dreamtime. He had walked South from the coast, taking his wives with him, and created the landscape as he walked and hunted and leaving his image in rock shelters. If his spirit is shown disrespect by anyone disturbing this land, he becomes angry and brings sickness or disaster.

The importance and power of this belief is evident in the story of a small knoll close to the river, known as Guratba by the Jawoyn. It was mined in the fifties and sixties for uranium, after the Jawoyn of the area had been taken away to camps by the government during World War II. The miners gave it the name "Coronation Hill" as uranium was discovered there the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. Mining stopped when the price of uranium on world markets slumped.

In the late 1980s, an alliance of mining companies applied to the federal government to mine the hill for gold and other minerals. The Jawoyn, now politically organised and aware, fought the proposal because of their concern over Budjalung and the Bula spirit. The nation's attention was on these subtle, semi-secret beliefs of Jawoyn elders which threatened billions of dollars in export earnings for the nation. Finally, in 1992 the Federal Government decided not to allow mining of the hill because of the Jawoyn opposition. Today Coronation Hill is one of several old mines in the valley.

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