Stick figures and animals painted in shades of red and brown on huge slabs of rock offer Roy Banjo a glimpse into how his ancestors lived.
“This one tells the story of a bad man and his wife walking with a dingo,” the traditional owner says pointing at a rock covered in drawings near his home in Laura on Queensland’s Cape York.
“There is an evil spirit sign there to show that children should keep away from this area because the bad man might take them and change the way they look.”
The Quinkan rock art at Split Rock, just outside of Laura, is thought to be about 18,000 years old and is one of about 1800 sites across the region.
Mr Banjo, who is in his 30s, is one of a number of traditional owners from the Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre who guide tourists through the sacred sites.
He spent much of his childhood roaming the rocky mountains around Laura with his elders who explained the stories behind the drawings.
Some signal good hunting spots, while others are warnings.
“See this hand print here, this is the artist’s signature,” he tells AAP.
Mr Banjo says protecting the sites is important because they help indigenous people better understand their culture and he wants the government to ensure they won’t be damaged by mining under the state’s Cape York Regional Plan.
The plan, to be finalised in June, outlines future land use for the peninsula and maps out areas which can be developed and which parts are considered to be of high environmental value.
Mr Banjo says even drilling some kilometres from the sites could damage the fragile rocks.
“It makes you proud to know about the rock art and keep the knowledge alive,” he said.
“It’s important for our young people to know these stories so they understand their culture and who they are.
“It’s been here long before me and will be here long after I’m gone.”