Sacred Indigenous sites and landmarks are everyone’s to share
Sacred Indigenous sites and landmarks are everyone’s to share

‘Sacred’ Indigenous landmarks are everyone’s to enjoy

It is named, auspiciously, Mount Warning and is set to become the latest landmark to be declared off-limits to non-Indigenous people.

The extinct volcano, sitting across the NSW border in the Tweed Valley, attracts tens of thousands of people every year who climb its peak to enjoy the sunrise and a view that stretches to the Pacific Ocean.

Freedom of Information documents obtained from the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service show it has drawn up hitherto secret plans to close the walking track to the mountain, named by Captain Cook in 1770, from November next year.

In Queensland, Indigenous elders have made it clear that they would like to see Mount Tibrogargan and Mount Beerwah in the Glasshouse Mountains and nearby Mount Coolum declared off-limits.

There are also calls for St Mary Peak in South Australia's Flinders Ranges and Mount Yengo in the NSW Hunter Valley to be closed to climbers while large sections of the Grampians National Park in Victoria are also being closed.

On North Stradbroke Island, campers are being banned by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC) while the state government is planning to give control of Moreton Island, the world's second largest sand island, to the same corporation.

 

Mt Warning attracts tens of thousands of people every year who climb its peak to enjoy the sunrise and a view that stretches to the Pacific Ocean
Mt Warning attracts tens of thousands of people every year who climb its peak to enjoy the sunrise and a view that stretches to the Pacific Ocean

 

No one disputes the importance of culture and tradition in all societies. We all benefit by gaining a greater knowledge of the beliefs and customs of others but there's little to be learnt by locking people out of areas of their own country.

Surely it is of greater benefit to go to some lengths to explain and highlight the beliefs that surround certain places and enlighten visitors rather than declare them to be sacred sites and then pressure governments to lock them up. That does not seem to be a welcome to country. Rather than promote harmony and understanding, it can trigger resentment.

Governments are too eager to accede to demands for bans in the interests of political expediency rather than give consideration to the interests and feelings of the majority.

In Victoria, the government has been caught out fabricating evidence to support its bans, publishing a photograph of a bolt allegedly driven into a site near Aboriginal rock art recently by climbers. It turned out the bolt had been part of a cage built more than 30 years ago to protect the artwork and which had since been removed, leaving the bolt in place.

There will always be idiots who will act disrespectfully but you will find them in any culture and punishing the great mass of intelligent, well-behaved and respectful people for the actions of a few flies in the face of any claim of inclusiveness.

The thousands of holiday makers, campers, fishermen and boat owners who enjoy the extraordinary beauty of North Stradbroke and Moreton islands, situated on the city's doorstep but light years away in terms of tranquillity, have reason to be concerned by recent events.

 

Indigenous elders have made it clear that they would like to see Mount Tibrogargan and Mount Beerwah in the Glasshouse Mountains and nearby Mount Coolum declared off-limits. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland/Jason Charles Hill
Indigenous elders have made it clear that they would like to see Mount Tibrogargan and Mount Beerwah in the Glasshouse Mountains and nearby Mount Coolum declared off-limits. Picture: Tourism and Events Queensland/Jason Charles Hill

 

Businesses and tourism leaders have already called on the state government to delay moves to share management of Moreton Island between wildlife rangers and QYAC.

State MP Mark Robinson, whose electorate includes the island, has criticised the sudden restriction on camping on North Stradbroke Island and raised concerns as to how QYAC would manage Moreton Island.

"People are concerned about their livelihoods," he said. "The tourism industry is not a tap, you can't turn it on and off. The question of QYAC's fitness to be the prescribed body corporate has to be settled before it is brought to a vote," he said. "The government has allowed them to make unilateral decisions without communicating those and involving the business community and tourism operators."

A federal investigation has been launched into QYAC following a call by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Corporation's Office of Registrar of Indigenous Corporations for a probe into the corporation's financial affairs.

 

On North Stradbroke Island, campers are being banned by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation.
On North Stradbroke Island, campers are being banned by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation.

 

Mr Robinson also called on the state government to carry out its own investigation and check on allegations made by some Quandamooka leaders regarding the use of government grants.

The government's response has been to do nothing, a Department of Environment spokesman saying the Moreton Island plan "mirrors the successful joint management partnership already in place on North Stradbroke Island".

It doesn't do anything of the kind. The actions of QYAC on North Stradbroke have split the community, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and any suggestion that everything is just hunky dory reflects ignorance or a deliberate attempt to mislead the electorate.

An organisation called Right to Climb operates under the banner "Our Mountains Belong To All Of Us." It's right but it's not just our mountains. Our islands also belong to all of us.

Originally published as 'Sacred' Indigenous landmarks are everyone's to enjoy



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