PETROGLYPHS.US    rock art petroglyph and pictograph educational articles

HOME
 

An Australia mining company, Woodside, intends to
destroy an area of petroglyphs some 20,000 years old
on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia

 

Source: the Living Black SBS television program
Series 6: Episode 1
Subject: WA Rock Art
August  2, 2006

 

Dampier Archipelago, Burrup Peninsula, Western Australia

 "Standing on solid rock  Standing on sacred ground  Living on borrowed time..." 

VO: These sacred rocks really are on borrowed time. This is the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia. Here, there are literally thousands of rock engravings scattered throughout the region, making it the world's largest rock art collection.

ROBERT BEDNARLIK, CEO INT FED OF ROCK ART ORG: There are very important rock art sites and stone quarries The rock art, in particular, is not replicated elsewhere.

VO: But it also houses some of Australia's largest industries including the North West Shelf Gas Project, Pilbara iron and Dampier salt.

 

kangaroo petroglyphs
Petroglyphs like these kangaroos are in danger of destruction from initial construction and ongoing post construction activities.

ROBERT BEDNARLIK: In WA, rock art is protected from destruction through the 1972 Aboriginal Heritage Act. And section 18 of that Act gives the Minister for Indigenous Affairs the option of approving the destruction of rock art in certain unusual cases.

VO: Currently, mining company Woodside has lodged applications under section 18 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act for rock art to be destroyed to allow for the development of a processing production plant very much like this one. This area is called Site A and it's covered in hundreds of heritage rock art sites. Ken Mulvaney is a rock art expert and is President of the Australian Rock Art Research Association. He says there are significant engravings in the proposed Pluto site.

Petroglyph thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) is extremely important as it is the only record of its existence in this part of Western Australia. These animals were wiped out in the late 1800's.


KEN MULVANEY, PRESIDENT AUST ROCK ART RESEARCH: Site A has a pair of thylacine images. They are in a style that suggests they are in the order of 18,000 to 20,000 years old.

ANGELA BATES: Why is the thylacine important?

KEN MULVANEY: The thylacine? Because it is an animal that there is no actual physical evidence of it being in this part of Australia. So it's part of the evidence that yes, the thylacine was throughout the Pilbara.
 


VO: Archaeologists have estimated that the amount of rock art that's been destroyed by industry already established is around 25% However, WA Minister for Resources John Bowler disagrees.

JOHN BOWLER, WA MINISTER FOR RESOURCES: We say somewhere between 2%-5% - it's probably more accurate around 3%. But there is a lot of rock art there. And what we've done, though, we've established a lot industry.

ROBERT BEDNARIK: It is, however, quite irrelevant whether it was 5% or 25% - the fact of the matter is, in a State like Western Australia, that has one of the lowest population densities on the Earth, it is quite unnecessary to establish the largest industrial plant in the world in the same location as the largest cultural monument in the country.
 


Unusual and well made petroglyphs occur in
great quantities at Dampier. Some say 25% of there petroglyphs have already been destroyed.

VO: The traditional owners of the Burrup Peninsula are believed to have been massacred in 1868. Nevertheless, neighbouring groups lodged a Native Title claim in 2002.

MICHAEL RYAN, SENIOR NATIVE TITLE LAWYER, PILBARA NATIVE TITLE SERVICES: The three different claim groups were Ngarluma Yindjibarndi, which is the dark line on the map, the Wong-goo-Tt-oo claim in green and the Yabarara-Mududhunera people, which is the purple line on the map. The judge determined that there was no native title on the Burrup Peninsula itself.

VO: However, before the judge handed down his decision, the three native title groups struck an agreement with the Western Australian Government.

MICHAEL RYAN: If no agreement was made, it's very likely that the Native Title Tribunal would have given the State Government the go-ahead to develop the industrial estate, so the groups had very little choice but to enter into the negotiation and make the agreement.

VINCE ADAMS, INDJABARNDI GROUP: It's an area of heritage, it's an area of learning. it's an area of Put it this way - it's like a university to us, you know, as we sit here now trying to get those teachings across, it's slowly diminishing.

WILFRED HICKS, WONG-GOO-TT-OO: It makes us cry because we keep on telling them that, "Get this development out of here and put it on the Maitland."

 


Some of the repatinated petroglyphs on the peninsula
date back 20,000 years and provide clues to the early
history of Man in Australia. 
Image (C) www.CreativeSpirits.de. See the Burrup Peninsula page.

VO: Maitland is one of two nearby alternative locations Woodside could develop where heritage sites would not be disturbed. Woodside's new proposed development site would be used only for the purposes of processing LNG, liquefied natural gas, for export to Asia and North America.

KEN MULVANEY: Industry can be placed anywhere. It's not as if industry on the Burrup is mining a resource that's on the Burrup. The gas fields are 100kms offshore. The iron ore that's shipped out of Dampier is several hundred kilometres inland.
 

VO: Various groups have lobbied the Federal Government to include the Burrup on the National Heritage List. The Federal Heritage Minister, Ian Campbell, is yet to make a decision. However, Minister Bowler is against the idea.

JOHN BOWLER: There are moves, of course, generally from the eastern States to put heritage listing over the Burrup. Our attitude is that drawing a line on the map will not protect that rock art.

VO: Recently, the WA Minister for Environment announced a draft management plan between the Native Title claimants and the Department of Environment and Conservation to jointly manage the reserve.

MARK MCGOWAN, WA ENVIRONMENT MINISTER: With 60% of the peninsula going into a full conservation reserve, that proportion of the rock art will be safe for the future. We recognize there is substantial national concern in relation to this issue. However, unfortunately, we can't turn back the clock back 40, 50 years on industrial development in this area.

VO: Greens Senator Bob Brown has criticized the announcement.

BOB BROWN, GREENS LEADER: What would the world think if Tony Blair was to say, "Let's get rid of 40% of Stone Henge. "We'll still have 60% left." People would riot in the streets. We're going to raise as much a commotion as we can in Canberra about this. When you go to the places where industry has already destroyed rock art, it is very, very harrowing. It's not just sad. It makes you angry that people could be so insensitive of their own nation's heritage.
 

Click on this link to sign a petition to save the Burrup Rock Art Site  http://www.petitiononline.com/dampier/
Read more about the sad state of affairs of this Rock Art Site
http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=burrup+peninsula+rock+art&meta=
For additional information contact  http://www.burrup.org.au/
The following is a letter written by Paul Ford that can be copied & pasted and sent to the officials listed:

to Prime Minister  Mr. John Howard
http://www.pm.gov.au/,
to West Australia's Premier Mr. Alan Carpenter  wa-government@dpc.wa.gov.au ,
to Woodside's CEO Mr. Don Voelte companyinfo@woodside.com.au ,


Dear ________,

          I wish to express my absolute disapproval of any plans your company may have that requires the destruction of Aboriginal Rock Art,as seems to be the plan on the Burrup Peninsula. Please find attached the UNESCO Convention regarding the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

          Any attempts to destroy Aboriginal Rock Art on the Burrup Peninsula would not only be a breach of this Convention, but as a company that promotes itself as "Australia's largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production company"a National as well as International disgrace. I strongly urge you to follow a path that respects the Aboriginal Rock Art of the Burrup Peninsula, and acknowledges the importance this Australian Aboriginal Rock Art has as a place in the World's history of Mankind.


yours sincerely,
__________
 
 
  Visit Sand Carved Designs to see
Petroglyph Art
for your home or office.
Opens a new window