Published by on

Parnajarrpa (sand goanna)

Parnajarrpa (sand goanna) are one of the most prized and reliable food sources hunted by Martu, found throughout Australia in sand plain and dune habitats. They are hunted by both men and women, though more often women working either alone or in pairs. Parnajarrpa hibernate in the cool months, emerging seasonally as temperatures warm in tuulparra (spring). When parnajarrpa are active they are tracked and dug from their burrows. When they are hibernating their burrows are ‘sounded’ by tapping wana (digging-sticks) on the ground, and then excavated. Traditional carved wana have been replaced with metal bars, though burning and tracking techniques continue to be practiced in the hunting of parnajarrpa.  Targeted waru (fire) clears vegetation and exposes burrows, whilst simultaneously providing diverse regenerating habitats for future parnajarrpa. When consumed, they are singed and then cooked in a coal and ash bed. 

During the pujiman (traditional, desert dwelling) period, Martu would traverse very large distances annually in small family groups, moving seasonally from water source to water source, and hunting and gathering bush tucker as they went. Whilst desert life has moved away from mobile hunter-gatherer subsistence throughout the course of the twentieth century, bush tucker continues to be a significant component of the modern Martu diet. Hunting and gathering bush tucker remains equally valuable as an important cultural practice that is passed on intergenerationally. Though hunting and gathering implements have been modernised, methods of harvesting, tracking and the use of fire burning to drive animals from their retreats are still commonly practiced today.

Name: Leon Cutter

Community: Parnngurr


Leon was born in the King Edwards Hospital in Perth. He grew up in Wiluna, Cue and Meekatharra. He moved to Parnngurr Community in April 2013. He has been painting there and doing some work for the Ranger team. Before moving to Parnngurr he painted in Sandstone. 

© the artist / art centre