Non-Aboriginal people have come to this country and found used pieces of ochre, stone tools and charcoal from cooking fires. They say that Aboriginal people lived here at least 50 000 years ago. However, Aboriginal people know that they have lived in this country since it was created.
-Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
Thermoluminescence dating of sand associated with artefacts, puts the occupation date of Kakadu at 50 000 to 60 000 years before the present, making these the oldest occupation sites discovered in Australia. Among the artefacts associated with the sites are flaked-stone tools, ground ochre and grindstones.
Aboriginal people were traditionally hunter-gatherers and moved regularly to places where resources were plentiful. There were no permanent settlements, but favoured camping areas were used for many, many generations. Among the temporary dwellings the people used were stringy-bark and paperbark shelters near billabongs, wet-season huts built on stilts on the floodplains, and rock shelters in the stone country.
When non-Aboriginal people arrived in the Kakadu area the Aboriginal population decreased markedly as many people died of disease or moved off their land to towns and settlements. The reduced population and the introduction of vehicles and shops have changed traditional seasonal movements: people are able to base themselves in an outstation or town and use vehicles to shop, to visit different outstations, to attend ceremonies and to move about the country on hunting trips.
It is thought that about 2000 people lived in the Kakadu area before the arrival of non-Aboriginal people; there are now about 500 Aboriginal people living in 18 outstations dotted throughout the park.
Kakadu is jointly managed
Kakadu's traditional owners have leased their land to the Director of National Parks to be jointly managed as a national park. Joint management is about Bininj and Balanda working together, solving problems, sharing decision making and exchanging knowledge, skills and information. Overall direction is provided by the Kakadu Board of Management which has an Aboriginal majority representing the traditional owners.
Read more about our joint management here >>