Yamatji (or 'Yamaji' in the orthography of Wajarri) is a name commonly used by Aboriginal people in the Murchison and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia to refer to themselves, and sometimes also to Aboriginal people generally, when speaking English. The word comes from the Wajarri language where it has the meaning 'man' or 'human being'. It is usually used to mean 'Aboriginal person', but when being more specific the particular language group name will often be used, where this is known. Although each of the main Aboriginal languages of this region (as a group, known as the Kartu languages) have their own words for 'man/human being', Yamaji has come to be used throughout the region, probably because Wajarri is the strongest remaining language and was always the most widely spoken language.
Yamaji country stretches from Carnarvon in the north, to Meekatharra and Sandstone in the east, and to Jurien in the south. The area covered by the Yamatji includes parts of the following Biogeographic Regions:
There are about 130 Aboriginal Heritage sites registered with the Department of Indigenous Affairs associated with the area, which include open shell middens along the shoreline, quarries, rock shelters, artefact shelters, burials and stone arrangements.
Archaeological research has been conducted at several sites across the Shark Bay Yamatji area and collections have been made from several sites including Useless Loop, Monkey Mia and Eagle Bluff. Kate Morse has also excavated at the Zuytdorp Cliffs near the Zuytdorp shipwreck. The Silver Dollar site near Eagle Bluff provides the oldest and most detailed evidence of Yamatji occupation of the region and was occupied for two periods, firstly between 30,000 and 18,000 years and secondly between 7000 and 6000 years. Rockshelter sites at Eagle Bluff and Zuytdorp are dated at 4000 to 4600 years before present.
The Aboriginal people of the Murchison-Gascoyne region were instrumental in assisting early settlers in the area identify permanent water sources, and worked in the pearling, pastoral and fishing industries. Especially in the early period their suffering as a result of the contact with the settler community was illustrated in 1885 by the Rev J. Gribble, who when arriving at Carnarvon found 36 men chained by the neck to a tree. His subsequent publication "Dark Deeds in a Sunny Land" portrayed the suffering of the Yamatji.
From 1908 to 1918, Dore and Bernier Islands, off the coast of Carnarvon, operated as Lock Hospitals for the isolation of Aboriginal people suffering from leprosy, tuberculosis and venereal disease. Often not knowing the reason for their removal, they were kept on the island until they either died or recovered.
Native Title Claims
Native Title interests of the Yamatji people are undertaken by the Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC).
The Yamatji land claims include the following various groups:
- Pandawn Descendants (WC96/83);
- Badimia People (WC96/98);
- Widi Mob (WC97/72);
- Mullewa Wadjari Community (WC96/93);
- Naaguja Peoples (WC97/73);
- Arnold Franks (WC98/57);
- Widi Mara (WC96/67);
- Widi Marra (WC96/86);
- Kevin Taylor (WC01/04);
- Hutt River (WC00/01);
- Nanda People (WC00/13); and
- Wajarri Yamatji (WC01/03).
- Thudgari (determined)
The Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation is a native title representative body recognised pursuant to the (Commonwealth) Native Title Act 1993. There have been four Executive Directors of the YMAC: Wayne Warner (1996-1998); former AFL footballer Clinton Wolf (1998-2001); Roger Cook (2001-2003) and current CEO Simon Hawkins (2003-present). YMAC is co-chaired by Pilbara representative Doris Eaton and Yamatji Representative Ben Roberts. Mrs Eaton was recognised as the NAIDOC Female Elder of the Year in 2009.
- Mark Atkins, musician
- Troy Cook, Australian rules footballer)
- Ernie Dingo, actor
- Emma Donovan, musician
- Antoni Grover, Australian rules footballer
- Murray Newman, Australian rules footballer
- David Ngoombujarra, actor
- Patrick Ryder, Australian rules footballer
- Ben Wyatt, politician
- Ken Wyatt, first Indigenous member of the Australian House of Representatives
- Marmion, D. (1996) "Wajarri Morphology" Hons. thesis, UNE.
- Douglas, W. (1981) "Watjarri" In Dixon, R.M.W. and Blake, Barry J., Eds., 'Handbook of Australian Languages, Vol. 2'. ANU Press.
- "Yamatji (Yamaji) People and Country". Aboriginal Education. Department of Education, Government of Western Australia. 29 January 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- Bowdler, S. (1989) "An archaeological survey of Aboriginal sites in the area of Useless Loop, Shark Bay".
- Bowdler, S. (1990a) "Before Dirk Hartog: Prehistoric archaeological research in Shark Bay, Western Australia", (Australian Archaeology, v 30, pp 46-57)
- Bowdler, S. (1990b) "The Silver Dollar site, Shark Bay: an interim report", (Australian Aboriginal Studies, no. 2, pp. 60-63)
- Bowdler, S. (1995) "The excavation of two small rockshelters at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, Western Australia", (Australian Archaeology, no. 40, pp. 1-13.)
- Morse, K. (1988) "An archaeological survey of midden sites near the Zuytdorp wreck, Western Australia", (Bulletin of the Australian Institute for Maritime Archaeology v. 12, pp. 37-40)
- Grible J. B. (1907) "Dark Deeds in a Sunny Land" (Intl Specialized Book Service)
- "Lock Hospitals in Shark Bay". Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia. Perth, WA: Department of Parks and Wildlife, Government of Western Australia. 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
- "About: Yamatji Marlpa Barna Baba Maaja Aboriginal Corporation (YMBBMAC)". Home page. 2007-01-30. Retrieved 2007-06-14.
... is the native title representative body (NTRB) for native title claims in the resource-rich Pilbara, Murchison and Gascoyne areas of Western Australia.
- "Our structure". Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation. Geraldton, WA. 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2016.