Cape York Traditional Owners are angered at the increasing number of tourists attaching memorial plaques to cliffs at Frangipani Bay (Pajinkathe), which they say desecrates the sacred site.
Dozens of plaques have been nailed, glued or cemented to the rocks around the Punsand Bay area, which are dedicated to travellers who passed away before reaching the Tip scatter rock formations.
The deed to more than 200 hectares of land in the surrounding area was handed back to the Gudang Yadheykanu Aboriginal Corporation last year. But currently, tourists are not legally required to seek their permission to install the plaques at the popular location.
Gudang Yadheykanu Board Director Nicholas Thompson told NITV News that he is concerned about the deterioration of the site, which has increased in recent months.
“It is disturbing to our late people who resided there and our very significant Country, there is no respect or consideration for the rightful First Nations people, and it needs to stop,” he said.
“We know that with the closure of Uluru we are going to see higher numbers of tourists coming through, but we are very concerned about these tourists disrespecting our country.”
Amanda Euart from the IPIMA IKAYA Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, which holds land and waters on the northern tip of the Cape York Peninsula in trust for a number of Traditional Owner groups, said the land is very significant.
“The Traditional Owners are deeply disturbed about the desecration of their cultural heritage site, because of the historical nature of this area and the lack of control or ownership there is a problem with the lack of acknowledgement,” she told NITV News.
“There is not only a lack of recognition for the First Nation peoples who resided there, but also as a ceremonial grounds and meeting place, but it also looks pretty ugly.”
A push for heightened protection
While Traditional Owners were recently handed back Native Title over the surrounding areas, the Frangipani Bay site is currently overseen by the Torres Shire Council.
Mayor Vonda Malone told The Cairns Post she was committed to protecting the natural beauty of the area.
“We don’t want the Tip to turn into a tip, a lot of people do disrespect it and leave rubbish there and graffiti, that’s unacceptable.” she said.
Mr Thompson said that he will rally together with other concerned community members to install makeshift signs instructing tourists about how to conduct themselves when visiting the site, and educating them about its cultural significance. He also plans on lobbying the Council to establish long-term solutions for the issue.
“With this area coming under the Torres Shire Council, we will reach out to the Mayor about this matter and hope that the council will provide more signage and policies to safeguard the cultural significance of this land.” he said.