When ISIS wrecked the temples in Iraq recently the world seethed in anger. An important Australian heritage site is now in danger from being destroyed by government-sanctioned mining which will be every bit as bad as the ISIS-sponsored vandalism.
The world’s oldest and largest collection of rock art – the Burrup Peninsula, or Murujuga, on the Dampier Archipelago – has been deregistered as a sacred site under new guidelines to the Western Australia’s weak Aboriginal heritage laws, which state there must be evidence of religious activity to qualify it as a ‘sacred site’.
The change has led to questions about whether the art will be reinstated to the cultural heritage register following a successful Supreme Court decision that ruled against the WA government’s definition of a ‘sacred site’.
Last week, WA Indigenous affairs minister Peter Collier produced a list of the 21 sites that were deregistered as a ‘sacred site’ under new guidelines to section 5 (b) of the state Aboriginal Heritage Act, produced by the state Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC).
The guidelines were based on advice given by the State Solicitor’s Office (SSO) and adopted by the ACMC in 2013.
The revelations followed questions in state Parliament from Greens MLA Robin Chappelle following a recent decision by the Supreme Court that quashed new definitions of a ‘sacred site’, adopted by the ACMC in July 2013.
Nearly a third of it has already been destroyed since mining operations began and although it has been around for more than 35,000 years, this ancient marvel may not be with us for much longer.
The prospect of Australia’s oldest rock art or petroglyphs being destroyed under the heel of industrial development on the site has got Australia up in arms. A Facebook page has been set up by angry Australian citizens to fight the relentless march of “progress” in Western Australia which threatens to eradicate the culturally important Aboriginal site on the Burrup Peninsula.