Protecting Aboriginal sites and artefacts in emergencies

Released 04/02/2020 - Joint media release

The ACT Government has provided greater protection for the region’s Ngunnawal culture by implementing a range of safeguards to conserve cultural sites and artefacts during an emergency.

This has been made possible during the State of Alert and set the foundation for further collaboration when ACT’s Ngunnawal history is at risk.

The ACT region and Namadgi National Park is home to many Aboriginal places and objects including rock shelters, scarred trees and artefact scatters which are dated from tens of thousands of years ago.

To conserve these important sites and objects, the ACT Government is working with members of the Ngunnawal Community including Representative Aboriginal Organisations to enhance protection while there are bushfires in the surrounding region.

Protection measures include:

  • Added protection zones around rock art sites which includes removal of vegetation, introduction of bare earth containment lines and installation of sprinklers
  • Removing of the timber viewing boardwalk at Yankee Hat rock art site
  • Mineral earth lines to protect Ngunnawal ‘scarred trees’ from fire
  • ‘No water bombing zones’ to protect stone arrangements and burial sites within Namadgi National Park.

These are in addition to the work the ACT Parks and Conservation Service conducts each year as part of their Bushfire Operations Plan to protect culturally significant places and objects and deliver prescribed, ecological and cultural burning.

The State of Alert has provided an opportunity to enhance our whole of government and community focus to protect what is important to our city, with additional emergency personnel and defence support available to respond to the changing conditions.

When an Incident Management Team (IMT) is established, as it has been during the State of Alert, a ‘values officer’ provides environmental and cultural values information during the planning and implementation of operations to assist in protecting Country (environmental and cultural values) during emergencies.

During the past few weeks, collaboration between the Ngunnawal Community, the IMT, ACT Government and the Australian Defence Force was vital to the safe recovery of a significant Ngunnawal women’s cultural object from a remote area of Namadgi National Park last week.

The operation was successfully coordinated with direction from the Dhawura Ngunnawal Committee, the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate and the IMT Emergency Commissioner. The artefact will be kept safe until it is determined by the Ngunnawal people the long-term and secure resting place for this object.

The Dhawura Ngunnawal Committee was established to engage, connect and work with the Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) to identify and implement cultural understanding within the Directorate and to provide guidance, direction and decisions to the management of Country including land, fire, air and water to better manage Ngunnawal Country together.

The ACT Government has also deployed various strategies to help protect other culturally significant sites, including heritage huts in Namadgi National Park, from bushfire.

This included establishing bare earth lines for better protection of huts, installation of hoses and drip systems and removal of other wooden infrastructure.

- Statement ends -

Section: ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate | Media Releases

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