Declaration Crag “consultation”: worrying precedent for Arapiles closures

Parks Victoria has been quietly getting on with business during lockdown, entering into consultation over Declaration Crag / Taylors Rock at Arapiles with 3 community groups:

  • Arapiles District Community Group
  • Mount Arapiles Advisory Group
  • Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network.

No climbing groups were consulted. This is concerning. Alternative viewpoints from a climbing perspective are unwelcome it seems. ACAV has 1600 members and we are dedicated to climbing access with a strong legal focus. This is the first we have heard of the recent consultation meetings.

Why are we concerned about the proposed Interim Protection Declaration at Dec Crag?

An interim protection declaration, or an ongoing protection declaration, that relates to an Aboriginal place or object has effect despite anything to the contrary in any of the following— (a) any other Act or law; (b) an approved cultural heritage management plan; (c) a cultural heritage agreement; (d) any other agreement.”

After 3 months as an interim order, the ruling is likely to be upgraded to an ongoing protection declaration. This powerful legislation is akin to locking it up and throwing away the key, no further questions. Maybe that’s appropriate at Taylor’s Rock, maybe not. Nevertheless a precedent is being set and many other sites at Arapiles are now being surveyed. Similar protections are highly likely if this goes through unchecked. We will follow this up accordingly.

We received this email from Parks Vic, explaining the recent events:

EMAIL FROM PARKS VICTORIA, 21 MAY 2020

This email provides an update on cultural heritage rediscoveries, assessments and protections at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park.

With public health measures in place to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Parks Victoria has been adapting the way it works to keep progressing important conversations with our communities.

Taylors Rock Interim Protection Declaration ­– Aboriginal Victoria consultation

The feedback period on a proposed Interim Protection Declaration at Taylors Rock (Declaration Crag) closed on 22 April.

The consultation occurred in March to consider whether to approve the additional legally-enforceable protection for this Aboriginal cultural heritage place where rock art and other cultural heritage values were recently rediscovered.

Aboriginal Victoria is managing this process and we will continue to share information with you as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can visit the Engage Victoria website for details: https://engage.vic.gov.au/proposed-interim-protection-declaration-barengi-gadjin

Registered rock art site assessments

In addition to recent finds at Taylors Rock, there are a number of rock art sites that have previously been identified in Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park.

These sites are on the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register, which is a central repository for Traditional Owners to store information about cultural heritage.

Beginning this month, Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council will assess these registered rock art sites, checking their condition and, where required, undertake further site protection.

Ongoing community consultation by Parks Victoria

While it has not been possible to hold a follow-up community information session in Natimuk due to current circumstances, members of our regional team have met online with three local representative groups.

In the past month, we’ve held separate meetings with the Arapiles District Community Group, Mount Arapiles Advisory Group, and the Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network.

Conversations were positive and focused on the aspirations of each group and the relationship moving forward with Parks Victoria. General discussions were also held on the current and future cultural heritage protection at Mount Arapiles Tooan State Park, opportunities for local groups to build relationships with Traditional Owners and the proposed Interim Protection Declaration for Dyurrite 1 (which is being led by Aboriginal Victoria).

As circumstances allow, we remain committed to holding future information sessions with the broader community to discuss the cultural, environmental and recreational values of Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, and how they are managed, recognised and enjoyed.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of feedback received at the community information session held in Natimuk earlier this year.

Finally, a recurring theme from community conversations has been the creation of a ‘roadmap’ that outlines the process and timelines for cultural heritage assessments and park management developments. We are working with Barengi Gadjin Land Council to finalise this and look forward to sharing it soon.

If you know others who would like to receive ongoing communication about the management of cultural heritage at Mount Arapiles-Tooan State Park, they can sign up via this link  https://confirmsubscription.com/h/r/74915B7A7DC0CA942540EF23F30FEDED

Kind regards, 

Parks Victoria

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