Activists are urging for change as more and more sacred Aboriginal sites are desecrated by vandals across Australia.
Damages to carvings at an Aboriginal Art Site and motorcycle tracks at a sacred women’s site in New South Wales are just the latest in a long string of deliberate acts of vandalism that have dominated headlines in recent months.
Talking to ABC about the latest damages, Dundullimal Dubba-ga Wiradjuri woman Minmi Gugubarra said the destruction was devastating.
“The formations and the features of [Dinawan’s] face, which have been here since those women who carved this thousands and thousands of years ago, have now been decapitated.
“I literally cried when I came here … I dropped to my knees, and I cried.”
The vandalism included scorch marks from fires, scratches, tyre tracks and, in the case of a recent prosecution, oily hands damaging ancient cave paintings.
Such vandalism can carry fines of up to $550,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, or both. However, University of Sydney historian Tristen Jones said further education is needed to ensure these sites are protected for future generations.
“Vandalism of places like that really represents an under-educated general Australian public on the significance of these places to Aboriginal communities,” she said.
Jones said solutions were complex and there needed to be a dialogue.
“[It] requires a lot of people thinking through resolutions and [sitting] down with Aboriginal people and doing a lot of talking and, more importantly, listening,” she said.
“Then resourcing cultural heritage managers to be able to action protection for those cultural sites.”
A National Parks spokesperson told ABC they were working with local Aboriginal people to protect the sites and were seeking the people responsible.
“[National Parks] is always looking for ways to improve working with the Aboriginal community to better educate people as to the significance of the site as well as impacts on the engravings,” they said.
“Anyone with information about vandalism at Bulgandry, please contact the local NPWS office.”
While it has certainly been good to see vandals prosecuted in recent months, it’s clear further actions are needed to protect these precious and irreplaceable sites. What those actions are, however, remains to be seen.