The Little Wilgie Ochre Mine in Cue has been included in the State Register of Heritage Places.
The place is unique for Aboriginal ochre mining activity and was later used by non-Aboriginal mining ochre operations in the latter part of the 20th century.
The Little Wilgie Ochre Mine is a significant part of the Aboriginal story of how the Weld Range in the Mid-West was formed. According to local Aboriginal tradition, the great Marlu Dreaming ancestor (a giant red kangaroo) was wounded by an evil spirit. It lay down bleeding at Little Wilgie before moving on and dying at Wilgie Mia. The blood left by the dying Marlu created the red ochre at both places.
Little Wilgie has been a site of mining and trade of red ochre by Aboriginal people for thousands of years, with the ochre traded across the State and beyond for ceremonial uses.
The Little Wilgie Ochre Mine has significant potential to improve understanding of Aboriginal life in the Weld Range region prior to colonisation and into the 20th century. The place demonstrates food processing, tool manufacture and mining techniques.
The Little Wilgie Ochre Mine boasts a wide range of archeologically significant artefacts demonstrating the varying mining techniques of both cultures. The place includes Aboriginal artefacts, rock shelters, caches and commercial mining artefacts, including survey markers and mine shafts.
As stated by Heritage Minister David Templeman:
“This is one of the oldest mining sites in Australia and provides a significant research opportunity to help us to develop an understanding of Aboriginal trade and cultural networks.
“This place is part of this State’s incredibly rich history and one of the few places in the world where indigenous mining occurred at the same time as commercial mining operations.
“The inclusion of this place in the State Register of Heritage Places is part of our journey towards incorporating Aboriginal history into the history of the State.”
As stated by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dr Tony Buti:
“The place connects the spirituality of the Aboriginal people with the land and demonstrates that mining has long been a part of the culture of Western Australia.
“A mining site which was used by Aboriginal people for thousands of years and by non-Aboriginal operators is very unique.
“With both cultures placing a value on the same commodity, it is a very powerful symbol of Western Australia – our shared culture, our sense of place, and community.”
As stated by Mining and Pastoral Region MLC Peter Foster:
“The Little Wilgie Ochre Mine’s inclusion on the State Register opens the door to a world of knowledge about Aboriginal history and culture pre-colonisation.
“I welcome the recognition this brings to both the significance of the Little Wilgie Ochre Mine in the history of the local area, and the unique place it occupies in the stories and culture of Aboriginal people.
“The Murchison region is one of the most amazing places on Earth. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of its rich heritage and appreciate how places like Little Wilgie shaped our history.”
Heritage Minister’s office – 6552 5400