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Traditional Owners welcome new Interim Protection Declaration

The recent decision by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Gabrielle Williams to approve the

Interim Protection Declaration for the site recorded as Dyurrite 1 at Mt Arapiles in Western

Victoria has been welcomed by the Traditional Owners of the area.

Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC), which holds Native Title rights and Aboriginal Heritage Act Representative Body status on behalf of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia &

Jupagalk Aboriginal Traditional owners, has worked in partnership with Parks Victoria &

Aboriginal Victoria to ensure that this newly re-identified site has strong protection measures

in place for 3 months while consideration for the ongoing management of values takes place.

“The Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners have deep physical, spiritual and cultural connections to

Dyurrite (Mt Arapiles) extending back tens of thousands of years. It is also the site of one of

the last organised strongholds for the Aboriginal resistance during the European invasion

period”, said Stuart Harradine, BGLC Manager of On-Country Operations and Wotjobaluk

Traditional Owner. “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 that this perception changes, and that

management of Aboriginal cultural landscapes such as Dyurrite changes to reflect this.”

BGLC recognises that the area commonly known as Taylor’s Rock has been a popular location for recreational activities, used by school groups and Licenced Tour Operators. However, Aboriginal Cultural Heritage is protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act, and Barengi Gadjin Land Council has a responsibility to the Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners it represents to ensure effective protection measures are put in place where appropriate. “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. We won’t be taking risks when it comes to protecting many thousands of years of our heritage”, said Mr Harradine.

In addition, BGLC understands that an open and fair statutory consultation process has taken

place as part of the consideration of the Interim Protection Declaration. This included inviting

submissions to the application through public notices, to members of the Parks Victoria –

Climbing Groups Round Table, and even an extended consultation period to ensure interested parties had time to make submissions. Mr Harradine believes this 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.” As for accusations that the Declaration will drastically affect the economy of nearby towns such as Natimuk, BGLC believes this is an unnecessary overreaction, and sees any current and future downturns as a direct effect of the ongoing Covid-19 Lockdown measures in place in Victoria and elsewhere. “The interim protection of Taylors Rock affects only 35 climbing routes out of estimated 3000 routes across the Dyurrite cultural landscape.

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.” Fortunately, there are an increasing number of rock climbers who recognise the impact of inappropriate activities on cultural values and support the actions of BGLC and Parks Victoria to protect our sites. “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. 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.

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