[deer] Wamwl'

The Cervidae have always been seen as stoic and beautiful creatures, often being used in brand logos and anthropomorphised as a figure of strength and wisdom within children’s books and film. I wanted to show the other side of their lives as a result of hunting and so created the work ‘[deer] Wamwl’’ (2010). After spending a great deal of time looking at the hunting techniques that face deer, I became interested in looking at the techniques that are more relevant to Australian society and history. This immediately drew me to the debates regarding the traditional killing of dugongs. Although dugongs are listed under the Nature Conservation Act as being illegal to hunt in most parts of Australasia due to their status as a vulnerable species, traditional killing has been allowed to continue. Indigenous Australians and Torres Strait Islanders still have the right to hunt a limited number of dugongs for the purpose of cultural ceremonies. The Native Title Act of 1993 states, in regards to hunting and fishing, that persons protected by the act may carry out such activities “for the purpose of satisfying their personal, domestic or non-commercial communal needs and in exercise or enjoyment of their native titled rights and interests.” This is in respect to 40,000 year old customs that are important to indigenous persons. These laws are considered by many to have negligent grey areas in that it is acceptable for these hunters to use aluminium motor boats and modern harpoons, which did not exist 40,000 years ago. This law is often abused by some poachers for financial gain, and it must be noted that many indigenous people are outraged by this process and the impending threat of extinction of these animals.

I found many similarities in the ways in which dugongs and deer were hunted. Dugongs are often harpooned from a boat and due to their excess of body weight, this does not kill or bleed them to death. In fact, they will drag the boat for quite a distance before exhausting themselves. The dugong will then either drown, be suffocated by having its nostrils plugged, or be dragged under the keel of the boat until it dies.

Since the making of this work, Native Title Laws have changed to abolish cruelty to dugongs and turtles, although the endangered species are still allowed to be hunted. The fact that traditional hunting sanctioned such cruelty in the first place is abhorrent.

-“Native Title Act 1993 Section 211,” Commonwealth Consolidated Acts, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/nta1993147/s211.html.
-Tom Arup & Peter Ker, “Hunting for Dugong, Turtles ‘Cruel’,” The Age, http://www.theage.com.au/national/hunting-for-dugong-turtles-cruel-20100414-se6q.html.
-“Protect Turtles and Dugongs from Cruelty in QLD,” Animals Australia, http://www.animalsaustralia.org/take_action/protect-turtles-and-dugongs-in-FNQ/.