Western Australia to host international ancient rock art congress

Wandjina Aboriginal rock art, found in the West Kimberley. Photo: Tourism Western Australia

Western Australia’s ancient Aboriginal rock art and academic strengths in the field have led to the State being chosen as the host destination of the Congress of the International Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) and the 4th Australian Rock Art Research Association Congress (AURA) 2024.

Set to take place in mid-to-late 2024, the IFRAO and AURA Congress will attract over 1000 experts in the field of rock art research, where they will convene over five days at The University of Western Australia (UWA), as well as venturing out into WA’s regions to study rock art sites for up to eight weeks.

Premier Mark McGowan said the State’s Aboriginal tourism experiences, which are currently being developed through the $20 million Jina: Western Australian Aboriginal Tourism Action Plan 2021-2025, was a key contributing factor in WA being chosen as the host destination of the 2024 IFRAO and AURA Congress.

“Western Australia is home to some of the most significant examples of rock art in both Australia and the world and is rich in culture and history,” he said.

“Hosting this congress means we will attract more than a thousand experts to Perth and regional WA to world-renowned rock art sites, where they will engage with local Aboriginal communities and tourism operators, enhancing the objectives of the Jina Plan, and further supporting the development of our cultural tourism industry.”

Of Australia’s 100,000 currently known rock art sites, the most significant examples exist in Western Australia, including the oldest rock art in the world in the Kimberley Region, where 60,000-year-old samples are found, and the largest collection known to be in existence at Murujuga in WA’s Pilbara region.

“We have enthusiastically chosen Western Australia and UWA as the best site for this conference; the university includes the world’s largest academic rock art department, just as Western Australia happens to boast the largest repository of rock art in the Pilbara and Kimberley,” said Professor Robert G. Bednarik, founder and convener of the IFRAO and AURA Congresses.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation CEO Peter Jeffries said the rock art found at Murujuga, also known as the Burrup Peninsula, was amongst the most significant in Australia.

“There are estimated to be over one million individual engravings at Murujuga within a space of approximately 37,000 hectares, some of which are estimated to be as old as 50,000 years,” Jeffries said.

“This rich concentration of rock engravings and stone arrangements has led to Murujuga recently being added to the UNESCO World Heritage (Tentative) List in recognition of its cultural significance, and I welcome the delegates attending the IFRAO and AURA Congress to come and see this incredible cultural history in person in 2024.”