Remarkable cultural landscape further revealed at Grampians
Friday 14 August, 2020
The remarkable Aboriginal cultural landscape of the Grampians continues to be revealed, with recent rediscoveries in the national park being added to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register.
Known as ‘Gariwerd’ to Traditional Owners, the Grampians is home to precious native plants, animals and ancient cultural heritage, including the richest concentration of rock art in Victoria. Archaeological excavations of Aboriginal sites in the park indicate occupation sites that are around 22,000 years old.
The park’s values are protected by legislation, including the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 under which significant financial penalties apply for harm caused to Aboriginal cultural heritage.
The recent rediscoveries were made during park assessments with Traditional Owners, as part of the process to develop a new management plan for the Grampians landscape.
The assessments revealed ancient cultural material, including multiple quarry sites – places where Aboriginal people took stone from rocky outcrops to make tools for different purposes. Concentrations of stone tools, archaeological deposits within rock shelters and, unusually, an ochre deposit are also present. Ochre is used for painting and decorative purposes, and along with other materials confirm the connections that Traditional Owners have to land they have cared for tens of thousands of years.
Following the rediscoveries, Traditional Owner organisations invited Parks Victoria and the Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network on Country to discuss the environmental and cultural values present and recreation that is undertaken there. Soil compaction and vegetation damage was evident in the area.
With the popular rock-climbing areas Taipan Wall/Spurt Wall and Bundaleer located within these Aboriginal cultural places, Parks Victoria has hosted a meeting with rock climbing representatives to discuss the need for immediate protections. These include protection zones and signage so that people don’t inadvertently enter the areas and cause harm.
The protection zones cover areas used for bushwalking and rock climbing, while other sections currently remain open to the public. A long-term approach to protecting these places will be determined by a new management plan, a draft of which is expected to be released for further public consultation later this year.
The vast majority of Victoria’s parks and reserves contain Aboriginal cultural heritage, the full extent of which is still being understood. In the broader Gariwerd landscape, in addition to rock art, Aboriginal places include burials, mounds, stone arrangements, freshwater middens, rock quarries, artefact scatters, archaeological layers and scar trees, and larger areas that also include intangible values such as creation stories.
Traditional Owners of the Grampians region are represented by Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, and Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. Together, they form a Strategic Partnership Committee of Traditional Owners.
Some parts of the Grampians National Park are currently closed due to coronavirus (COVID-19), while others are open to local residents for the purpose of exercise if it is their closest park. Visitors are reminded of the public health measures in place across regional Victoria, including physical distancing, the wearing of face masks, and that there are only four reasons for leaving home.
Quotes attributable to Jason Borg, Regional Director, Parks Victoria:
“The Grampians landscape is embedded with remarkable natural and cultural values, much of which is still being identified.”
“It’s a privilege to partner with Traditional Owners as the Gariwerd cultural landscape is further revealed and to ensure these special places and stories are carried forward to be shared for generations to come.”
“We have a legislated responsibility to protect the natural and cultural values of the national park and we ask visitors to respect the protection zones being put in place while a longer-term approach is determined through a new management plan.”
“We know that these protection zones extend across highly regarded climbing areas. We will continue to consult with climbers and hope we can work together to protect and celebrate these unique rediscoveries.”