DIA’s Pilbara region, which is based in Port Hedland, had an Aboriginal population of about 7100 people in 2006, living in towns and 37 scattered communities. This represents the third highest proportion of Aboriginal people in the State.
Employment of Aboriginal people has traditionally been in the pastoral industry, particularly on one of about 22 Aboriginal pastoral leases in State’s north. Efforts are being made to increase Aboriginal employment in the mining industry, particularly through contract work such as earthmoving, road works, gardening and catering.
The Pilbara covers an area of 507,896 square kilometres, extending from the Indian Ocean to the Northern Territory and includes several islands. Major towns in the region include Exmouth, Karratha, Port Hedland, South Hedland, Tom Price, Newman, Marble Bar and Nullagine. Communities extend to Jigalong in the south and Kunawarritji to the east.
The area can be separated into three distinct geographical formations – a vast coastal plain, breathtaking inland ranges and desert extending to the nation’s arid center.
Among the Pilbara’s most popular natural attractions are the Karijini and Millstream/Chichester national parks, while the broader area has become a cultural haven well known for its Aboriginal rock art. Karijini also boasts a small Aboriginal tourist operation.
Archaeological evidence shows that the Pilbara has been inhabited for at least 30,000 years.
The Pilbara region is also prone to cyclones during November to April, with communities in danger of being isolated for weeks at a time after heavy rain. Staff place considerable emphasis on raising the awareness of Aboriginal people on how to prepare for cyclones.
The Innawonga & Bunjima People native title claim covers approximately 19,567 square kilometres of land in the central Pilbara region, and includes part of the iconic Karijini National Park. The Bunjima name for the Hamersley Ranges is Karijini, and evidence of early occupation in the area dates back ore than 20,000 years.