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    Mt Arapiles.

Greater protection for Arapiles art site declared

Aboriginal rock-art at a popular mountain-climbing area at Mount Arapiles remains closed to the public after authorities applied an ‘interim protection declaration’ on the site.

The declaration means anyone who disturbs the site might face significant fines. 

Fines up to $297,396 are in place for individuals and $1.6-million for body corporates found guilty of disturbing the site.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gabrielle Williams announced the declaration on Dyurrite 1, a rock shelter part of Taylors Rock.

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The area is at the south of Mount Arapiles in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, where researchers have identified more than 50 culturally significant rock-art motifs. The artwork is undetectable to the naked eye.

Ms Williams said the declaration would ensure the area was protected while Traditional Owners and land managers considered longer-term protection plans for the site.

“We take the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage very seriously. It is essential we work together with the whole community to protect, celebrate and respect Aboriginal history,” she said.

“This declaration gives Traditional Owners time to consider what safeguards they would like in place in the long term to preserve the cultural significance of Dyurrite 1.”

The site, which also includes a stone artefact scatter and a stone quarry and has for many years been used as a tourist stop as well as being popular with rock-climbers, closed to the public in December.

Subject to review

The announcement, the first interim protection declaration under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, will be subject to review in three months when authorities can extend the ruling for a further three months.

The site is on a Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register. Barengi Gadjin Land Council, representing Traditional Owners in the area, including Mount Arapiles, will work with the State Government on a long-term protection plan.

Parks Victoria co-manages Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park with Barengi Gadjin Land Council in a partnership that has legislated responsibility to protect the area from the impact of visitors.

In December last year, Parks Victoria chief executive Matthew Jackson urged visitors to ‘respectfully’ stay off Taylors Rock.

“We appreciate that Taylors Rock has previously been a popular spot for rock climbers and tour operators. It’s our hope that the rock-climbing community, Traditional Owners and land managers can all work together to protect, celebrate and communicate this rich Aboriginal history,” he said at the time.

Permanent protection declarations in other areas of the state are in place for the Garradha Molwa near Echuca, 2011, and Point Ritchie Moyjil Midden Complex near Warrnambool, 2013.

Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said maintaining and protecting Aboriginal culture was a joint responsibility.

“This decision will give tourists and park users certainty and confidence, so they are free to enjoy these landscapes without fear of causing harm to irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage,” she said.

Many Natimuk district people, while supportive of protecting cultural sites, fear future increases on climbing bans at the mount will have a serious impact on the socio-economic health of the town and district.

Mount Arapiles is renowned as an international rock-climbing hot-spot, which has led to an eclectic cross-section of people settling in the town and developing it a multicultural and arts-centred community.

The entire June 24, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire June 24, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!