The name Ningaloo is a West Thalanyji*Jinigudira *Yinigudura *Yinkutura word meaning ‘deep water’ and was recorded in the 1800’s. Other groups have meanings that vary depending on the people and area of that language group. These people are coastal dwellers and as such have a long relationship between the Thalanyji aboriginal people from the Ashburton River (MINDEROO) area at Old Onslow.
The coastal environments of the Ningaloo region and conservation of the marine life and coast is critical to the culture and identity of the traditional owners that are represented by the North West Cape Exmouth Aboriginal Corporation (NWCEAC – ICN:4268), the Traditional Owners and Custodians John Dale and his sister Janeen Dale and their families. Both John and Janeen have been given responsibility by their late father Sydney Dale (known by his aboriginal name as Munarbrie) whom was the last of the original old people from the North West Cape area. His country starts from above Tent Island on the eastern side of the Exmouth Gulf and extends across to Bulbali Point on the west coast on the Ningaloo. This old man was born on Giralia Station and grew up with his family on the North West Cape and at Cardabia Pastoral Lease the country of his youth. He was given the responsibility by the old people belonging to his Thalanyji connections in the early 1950’s. His history is traced back to before white settlement here in Western Australia.
The late Sydney Dale was one of the old people that established the GNULLI NATIVE TITLE CLAIM. The word Gnulli is a Thudgarri word meaning “ALL OF US” and was given by Ben Robert’s father when the claim was established. GNULLI IS A NAME GIVEN TO A NATIVE TITLE CLAIM; IT IS NOT A LANGUAGE GROUP. There were originally five language groups as part of this claim but now only three remain. They are the Yinigudura also known as: West Thalanyji*Jinigudira*Yinikutura and at times may be spelt differently depending on the people researching. The area for Sydney Dale was West Thalanyji, for the Crowe and Dodd families plus others it was Inggarda of the Kennedy Ranges and Carnarvon, with the Baiyungu Language Group being centred in and around Minilya area. The Baiyungu tribe were still living on and around Minilya in 1907. It was at this time they asked Julius Brockman to take them away to his station at Carnarvon as too many of their young strong men were dying. The Baiyungu Matriarch is a respected member of the NWCEAC and a respected source of information. She is the niece of the late Sydney Dale.
The region is extremely significant containing aboriginal sites such as burial grounds, middens and fish traps, and provides the earliest record of marine resource use in Australia. The West Thalanyji*Jinigudira people, who inhabited most of the land adjacent to the Ningaloo Reef and Exmouth Gulf including along and in the Cape Range area, enjoyed their occupation on this country and this is evident in the discoveries made by researchers when working with the late Sydney Dale. He showed young students where to research and look for evidence of his peoples’ existence here from around 35,000 years ago where they sheltered in limestone cave sites ON HIS COUNTRY. One of the most significant archaeological discoveries of ornamental beads made of cone shell more than 32,000 years ago, was found Mandu Mandu Creek Rock-Shelter near Exmouth (Morse, 1993). It was Sydney Dale that showed the researchers a location to work at and the results were incredible for all the people involved. This evidence demonstrates a sophisticated and specialised use of the coast and its resources. The Dale family continues to hold custodianship of the land for the original families and tribe of their late father.
The Gnulli Aboriginal Native Title Claim recognises the traditional ownership of the country and as was told by the old man that established his claim with the understanding that people would always respect what the old people said and no one would disrespect the teachings of the old people. It documents that they the West Thalanyji people (Yinigudura etc) continue to hunt, fish, gather, camp and perform ceremonies, visit sites of spriritual importance, and pass on knowledge about the land and their traditions. The ocean, the estuaries, rivers, creeks and springs, and tidal areas are immeasurably important parts of West Thalanyji spritiual life. Respect for the land and water is IMPLICIT AT THE TIMES ALONG WITH RESPECT FOR THEIR CULTURE. The NWCEAC has been left the responsibility as the Legatees to put in place the Legacy of the Late Sydney Dale as we have to do what the old people said.