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Shark Bay’s Aboriginal Heritage

Aboriginal people first lived in Shark Bay some 30,000 years ago. They were possibly the first indigenous Australians to make contact with Europeans, and among the first to be described to the Western world by European explorers. Since European colonisation, the fortunes of Shark Bay’s Aboriginal people have fluctuated. Many have suffered exploitation and injustice. Today the history, traditions and achievements of Aboriginal people are recognised and celebrated, encouraging a resurgence of pride in identity, culture and language.

Link to the Aboriginal Occupation pageAboriginal occupation of Shark Bay

Shark Bay has a long history of use and occupation by Aboriginal people.
There are more than 100 Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, and possibly
many more yet to be discovered. Uncover Shark Bay’s ancient cultural history here.

Link to the Aboriginal Languages pageAboriginal languages of Shark Bay

Shark Bay is the traditional country of three Aboriginal language groups:
the Malgana, Nhanda and Yingkarta. The Malgana name for Shark Bay
is Gathaagudu, which means “two bays”. Learn some local language here!

Link to the First Contact pageFirst contact with Europeans

Discover the fascinating story of the Zuytdorp shipwreck survivors,
and the people who helped them.

Link to the French Connection pageThe French connection

Observations by French explorers provided insight into the traditional
life and customs of Shark Bay’s first people. Find out what they saw here.


Link to the Lock Hospital pageLock Hospitals in Shark Bay

Shark Bay’s Aboriginal cultural heritage sites range from places of
ancient feasts and celebrations to places of modern-day pain and injustice.
The tragedy of the Lock Hospitals is recounted here.

Link to the Aboriginal Involvement in Shark Bay's Industry pageAboriginal involvement in Shark Bay industries

Aboriginal workers made a vital contribution to the region’s economic
development. Read about their achievements.

Link to Aboriginal People Today pageAboriginal people in Shark Bay today

Today many Aboriginal people work in fishing, tourism and conservation
management. Find out what the future holds!

You can discover more about Shark Bay’s cultural heritage at the Shark Bay World Heritage Discovery Centre in Denham.

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