Aboriginal cultural heritage recognised in Grampians licences
Tuesday 30 June, 2020
Tour operator licences extended until management plan completed
The Aboriginal cultural heritage of the Grampians is being better protected and recognised as part of a new agreement for tour groups operating at Summerday Valley in the national park.
With the support of Traditional Owners, Licensed Tour Operators offering rock climbing and abseiling were last year provided conditional access to operate in Summerday Valley, an area protected because of its natural and cultural values. This access has now been extended with the addition of a voluntary Code of Conduct that is designed to help tour operators and their customers better recognise, protect and respect the area’s cultural Aboriginal heritage.
Operators are now also required to hold a Cultural Heritage Permit which sets out the requirements for them to responsibly operate in this special area.
Known as ‘Gariwerd’ to Traditional Owners, the Grampians region is home to the largest number of known significant and ancient Aboriginal rock art sites in southern Australia, some dating back more than 20,000 years. There are around 200 rock art sites currently recorded in the Grampians National Park, many of which are situated under rock overhangs.
As within most parks and reserves in Victoria, the full extent of Aboriginal cultural places in the Grampians National Park is still being understood.
For tour operators operating in Summerday Valley, other licence conditions include defined operating locations; compulsory completion of an Aboriginal cultural heritage induction program; education for operators and their tour groups; identification for tour guides and their customers; use of a booking system to manage and monitor access; and reporting of visitor data to help with planning and review.
The new licences provide access to operate in Summerday Valley until a new management plan for the Grampians landscape is finalised or 30 June 2021, whichever is first. This plan is currently being developed in partnership with Traditional Owners and will provide longer-term direction on how the national park is accessed and used for recreation, including rock climbing, abseiling, bushwalking and other activities. The plan will also provide a framework for environmental conservation; cultural heritage protection, including Aboriginal rock art; tourism opportunities; visitor safety and experience; and management of fire and water catchments.
No-impact climbing is currently permitted in more than two thirds of the landscape outside of Grampian National Park’s Special Protection Areas.
People are reminded that physical distancing requirements remain in place, and that park visitors must practise good hygiene, keep a distance from others and stay home if unwell.
Due to the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19), Parks Victoria has waived licence fees of Licensed Tour Operators for 2020.
Quotes attributable to Jason Borg, Regional Director–Western Victoria, Parks Victoria:
“The Grampians National Park contains precious environmental and cultural values that we all have a responsibility to protect.”
“People visiting the park and wishing to climb can do so respectfully by staying out of Special Protection Areas or taking a tour with an appropriately qualified and approved licensed tour operator.”