Carving Wood Project

The Carving Wood research project assessed the sustainability of tree harvesting associated with the arts industry in remote tropical northern Australia. The research was undertaken because the Maningrida community was concerned about the impacts of a significant increase in sculptural wood carving in the 1980s and 1990s. The three-year research commenced in 2002 and concluded that the current rate of tree harvests for commercial art production was unlikely to lead to regional depletion or to have lasting detrimental impacts on the health of targeted rainforests.

The benefits of this research to the Maningrida community included: improved methods for identifying specific woods used for carvings, acquiring the knowledge and technology to measure the moisture content of barks and thus manage quality control of bark paintings; learning that current harvesting regimes were sustainable and that, in the case of the kábbukkurdurrk (cotton tree), harvesting for wood carvings actually promoted new growth.

This was an ARC-funded Linkage project conducted by the Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management at Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University) in partnership with Maningrida Arts and Culture. Other partners included the Djelk Rangers and the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (Australian National University). You can read some of the research findings.

Endangered languages

Beginning in 1999, this multi-year project developed and significantly expanded resources for half of the region’s 12 distinct local languages: Kunbarlang, Na-kara, Rembarrnga, Dangbon / Dalabon, Gurr-goni and Djinang/Wurlaki. Some of the language dictionaries published by Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation as outcomes of this enduring research can be purchased from us, and some of the excellent language resources and information online evolved from research undertaken through this project. It was funded by ATSIC’s Language Access Initiatives Program.

Other organisations, including Maningrida School and Batchelor Institute, now produce language resources and teach the languages of the region.

Design by Brenda Thornley, 2017.

This map combines the expertise of past and present speakers of the languages and is based on earlier language maps produced by Maningrida Arts & Culture and Maningrida College.