Guided tours to protect ancient rock art

In a move to help protect what's possibly the world's largest and oldest collection of rock art, guided tours have begun on the Burrup Peninsula in northwest Western Australia.

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)


Traditional owners will teach people about culturally sensitive areas, and they hope help protect art that could be 30 thousand years old.


Ryan Emery reports.


(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)


Ngarluma man Clinton Walker tells the spirits that visitors have come to his people's land.


If the wind gusts during their visit, the spirits could be mad.


But the air stays still.


Clinton and his cousin Patrick Churnside have begun guided tours through some of the world's oldest and most abundant rock art.


It's estimated that there are a million pieces covering parts of the Burrup Peninsula in northwest Western Australia.


As Clinton Walker explains, the cousins hope education will mean conservation.


"Education is vital for this area. You need to understand the protocols of my people and because people don't understand that it's our job to teach them so when people come out on their own, they go look at things, they may not be allowed to and from a spiritual point of view, that could be harmful to them so if someone's with us, we do all the right things: welcomes and so on and we can teach them properly."


The men describe the area as a school, chemist and kitchen for their people.


The rock art taught children about animals and spirits, the plants provided cures or clothing and hunters would stalk these rocks for kangaroos.


Patrick Churnside explains to the tour group how hunters would use the smelly Vicks plant while they were hunting kangaroos in this picturesque gorge.


"Up the road here. Through the gorge here, you'll see there's a little bit of a pool of water. So something like that up there would have been a perfect place for them to sit and wait. Wait for a kangaroo maybe or a wallaby. They would come looking for a bit of water to drink. So he'd sit in that hide. He'd use some of this here to rub, mask his own scent and he'd be sitting waiting for him."


The area is national heritage-listed and more than 40 per cent of the Burrup has been national park since the beginning of this year.


And rangers patrol the area, which in the past has been vandalised.


But there's one threat that isn't going away in the resource-rich region: industry.


Less than two kilometres away is a fertiliser plant and a gas processing hub is another two kilometres away.


Industry opponents believe emissions are hastening the wearing of the rocks.


Clinton Walker says any plans to take the rocks away to save them would be inappropriate.


"You know, you could replicate it, but these things have been here for more than 30 thousand years. We can never replicate that. So yeah, we're a little bit concerned that all this activity is around here. As long as they don't expand, which they can't now because of national park and all this other stuff. We would love to have world heritage listing. Me personally. Definitely."


For now, the cousins hope education will help to guide the way.


Source World News Australia

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