Helping you find government information and services

Kakadu National Park


by Gillian Savage

I have been there in the wetlands where the water lilies grow,
In the dazing heat of midday when the sky is richest blue.
I have floated with the pelicans past the paperbarks aglow
With the golden-red reflection of the mellow afternoon.

I have drifted by the banks where the egrets sit in trees,
Where crocodiles lie immobile in the sun.
I have seen the pretty wallabies turn to look at me,
And felt the shades of people who used to call this home.

Kakadu's people

Jim Jim Falls during the wet season

Jim Jim Falls during the wet season. Image courtesy of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Aboriginal people believe that Kakadu was shaped by their spiritual ancestors during the Creation Time. These ancestors, or 'first people', journeyed across the country creating landforms, plants, animals and Bininj/Mungguy (Aboriginal people). They brought with them laws to live by including ceremony, language, kinship and ecological knowledge. They taught Bininj/Mungguy how to live with the land and look after the country.

The indigenous people of Kakadu are from a number of different clans who speak different languages and, in some cases, uphold different traditions.

The name 'Kakadu' comes from an Aboriginal floodplain language called Gagudju which was one of the languages spoken in the north of the park at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although languages such as Gagudju and Limilngan are no longer regularly spoken, descendants of these language groups are still living in Kakadu.

Aboriginal languages used in the park today include Kunwinjku from the north-eastern region, Gun-djeihmi from the central region and Jawoyn from the southern region.

About Kakadu

Kakadu National Park covers an area of 19,804 square kilometres within the Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory. The park runs 150 kilometres south from the coast to the southern hills and basins, and 120 kilometres east from the Arnhem Land sandstone plateau to its western boundary.

Around 50 per cent of the land in Kakadu National Park is Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. Title to Aboriginal land in the park is held by Aboriginal land trusts. The land trusts have leased their land to the Director of National Parks so that it can be used as a national park for the enjoyment and benefit of all Australians.

The Six seasons of Kakadu

Bininj/Mungguy (local Aboriginal people) recognise six seasons in the Kakadu region:

  • Gunumeleng - Pre-Monsoon Storm Season
  • Gudjewg - Monsoon Season
  • Banggerreng - Knock 'em down storm Season
  • Yegge - Cooler but still humid Season
  • Wurrgeng - Cold Weather Season
  • Gurrung - Hot Dry Weather

A natural and cultural heritage

Rock painting of Narnarrgon the Lightning Man

Namarrgon - the Lightning Man. Image courtesy of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Kakadu is an ecologically and biologically diverse area with many different landforms and habitats. These include the sandstone plateau and escarpment, areas of savanna woodlands and open forest, rivers, billabongs, floodplains, mangroves and mudflats.

There are over 60 species of mammals found in Kakadu and a great many reptiles including goannas, frill-necked lizards, the frightening saltwater crocodile, water pythons and a number of highly venomous snakes. Kakadu also supports more than 280 species of birds, or about one-third of Australia's bird species.

Aboriginal people have lived in Kakadu continuously for at least 50,000 years. There is a rich heritage of Aboriginal art (including cave paintings and rock carvings) and archaeological sites throughout the region. Many Aboriginal artefacts have been found at old camping sites, particularly in the escarpment and floodplain country, recording the skills and way of life of the region's original inhabitants.

An area of significance

This unique and ancient natural and cultural heritage has been recognised by the inscription of the park on the World Heritage List. Kakadu is one of only 22 World Heritage sites listed for both its natural and cultural heritage. It was also added to the National Heritage List in 2007.

Kakadu is also on the Register of the National Estate because of its national significance to the Australian people. Additionally, the wetlands of Kakadu are recognised for their international significance under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar convention).

Kakadu National Park is proclaimed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). The Park is jointly managed by the Aboriginal traditional owners and the Director of National Parks.

Useful links

Last updated: 11th December 2015
Creators: ACME, et al.