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08 July 2020
By Dylan De Jong
Wimmera Traditional Owner leaders believe a protection order placed on Taylor’s Rock at Mount Arapiles will help preserve a culturally significant site for future generations.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams approved a three-month Interim Protection Declaration for a rock art site recorded as Dyurrite 1 at Mount Arapiles.
Barengi Gadjin Land Council, which represents Wimmera’s Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagalk Traditional Owners, hopes the protection order will help the group preserve culturally significant sites.
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Barengi Gadjin Land Council, BGLC, on-country operations manager Stuart Harradine said the council worked with Parks Victoria and Aboriginal Victoria to ensure the newly re-identified site had strong protection measures in place while consideration for the ongoing management of values took place.
“The Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners have deep physical, spiritual and cultural connections to Dyurrite – Mount Arapiles – extending back tens of thousands of years,” he said.
“It is also the site of one of the last organised strongholds for the Aboriginal resistance during the European invasion period.”
Mr Harradine said it was critical the land council protected culturally significant sites that were at risk of being damaged due to recreational climbing.
“Unfortunately, there is evidence that activities such as rock climbing can and does impact on cultural values, and in fact the Dyurrite 1 rock art site itself has had direct impact from climbing, which is why the declaration has been approved,” he said.
“The importance of this place to Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners is not always fully appreciated by non-Aboriginal people and is often overlooked in favour of recreational and other values.
“It is important this perception changes, and that management of Aboriginal cultural landscapes such as Dyurrite changes to reflect this.
“We won’t be taking risks when it comes to protecting many thousands of years of our heritage.”
Mr Harradine said BGLC recognised the area was a popular location for recreational activities.
But he said BGLC believed claims made that the declaration would drastically affect the economy of nearby towns, such as Natimuk, was an unnecessary overreaction, and sees any current and future downturns of tourism as a direct effect of ongoing COVID-19 lockdown measures.
“The interim protection of Taylor’s Rock affects only 35 climbing routes out of an estimated 3000 routes across the Dyurrite cultural landscape,” he said.
“The interim closure of such a small number of climbs means there would be no reason for a significant downturn in recreational user numbers due to the Interim Protection Declaration alone.”
Show of support
Mr Harradine said there was an increasing number of rock climbers who recognised the effects of inappropriate activities on cultural values and supported the actions of the group.
“We, the Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners and BGLC are keen to foster mutually respectful relationships with recreational users through groups like the Natimuk-based Grampians Wimmera Reconciliation Network,” he said.
“Their members have been very supportive of our efforts and have provided an alternative for those who see the negative reactions from some user groups as not representative of their views.”
Mr Harradine said he understood the minister provided Parks Victoria’s Climbing Groups Round Table with an extended 28-day consultation period and interested parties were invited to make submissions for the application of the declaration.
He said he believed the consultation process was more than sufficient.
“Any claim that no consultation took place with stakeholders is simply false, and it is irresponsible and harmful to be publicly spreading falsehoods in the Wimmera communities about this,” he said.
The entire July 8, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!