Aboriginal cultural values rediscovered at Arapiles

Tuesday 3 December, 2019

Traditional Owners, Parks Victoria to discuss Aboriginal cultural heritage protections with stakeholders

Aboriginal cultural heritage, including rock art, has been rediscovered at a site called Taylors Rock (Declaration Crag) in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park.

Rock art sites holding dozens of painted motifs, plus artefact scatters and quarry sites make up this remarkable collection on the traditional lands of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples, who have cared for this Country for thousands of years.

The sites have been added to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register, and Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council, who co-manage the park, have a legislated responsibility to protect the area from visitor impacts.

Traditional Owners and Parks Victoria are inviting stakeholders and visitors to help protect and communicate the rediscovery, and celebrate the area’s rich Aboriginal history. Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council plan to discuss with rock climbers, local tour operators, community groups and other stakeholders to discuss cultural heritage protections at Taylors Rock.

To protect the site while a longer-term management response is explored, Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council, which co-manage the park, have installed visitor signage requesting people to respectfully avoid entering the area effectively immediately. Park Rangers and Aboriginal Heritage Officers will be regularly visiting the site to help make visitors aware of its cultural significance. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 protects Aboriginal cultural heritage and significant financial penalties apply for harm caused by individuals or corporate bodies.

There is otherwise no change to visitor activities in the rest of the park such as rock climbing, bushwalking, camping and cycling.

The rediscoveries are enormously important to Traditional Owners, who have occupied the lands around Mount Arapiles – known as Dyuritte – for thousands of years and who have maintained deep spiritual and cultural connections to the area. Today, the Barengi Gadjin Land Council co-manages Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park and is the region’s Registered Aboriginal Party under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Around 37% of Victoria is covered by an Area of Cultural Heritage Sensitivity – and therefore almost all parks and reserves. Parks may contain small, localised cultural heritage sites – such as rock-quarries, artefact scatters and scar trees, and larger areas that also include intangible values such as creation stories. Parks themselves may form part of expansive cultural landscapes, such as the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim. 

Quotes attributable to Matthew Jackson, Chief Executive Officer–Parks Victoria:

“Rock art sites holding dozens of painted motifs, plus artefact scatters and quarry sites make up this remarkable collection on the traditional lands of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples, that require protections under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.”

“While longer-term protections are explored, we’re asking 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.”

Quotes attributable to Stuart Harradine, Manager of On Country Operations - Barengi Gadjin Land Council:

“The identification and registration of Cultural Heritage sites at Taylors Rock is exciting news for our Traditional Owners, the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk peoples.”

“We have Cultural Obligations to ensure the protection of these sites within the Dyurrite Cultural Landscape, as we and our Ancestors before us have done for tens of thousands of years.”

“Their protection is supported by the Aboriginal Heritage Act and Regulations, in which our organisation, Barengi Gadjin Land Council, is recognised and has responsibilities for managing and protecting Aboriginal Cultural Heritage.”

“We hope that visitors to Dyurrite respect our wishes and avoid entering this particular location to ensure its protection.”

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