• Wiradjuri man Mark Saddler has welcomed 'genuine conversation' with METKA EGN but says he's proceeding with caution. (Facebook)Source: Facebook
A Wiradjuri man welcomes a major engineering company's interest in taking cultural awareness training after the destruction of local artefacts, but he also wants to see several other initiatives included in the reparations.
Keira Jenkins

3 Feb 2021 - 5:00 PM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2021 - 5:27 PM

Wiradjuri man, Mark Saddler hopes METKA EGN, a leading construction engineering company, is turning a new leaf in its relationship with Traditional Owners, following talks with the company.

The company, which owns a solar farm where numerous artefacts were destroyed, was fined $1500 for starting work before they had received an Aboriginal heritage impact permit (AHIP) in July 2020. 

Mr Saddler said more than 200 artefacts had been damaged during that work and has called for the fine to be much higher.

"They got penalised because they jumped the gun before they got a special permit called an AHIP," he said.

"The penalty should be for jumping the gun on AHIP, but the penalty should also be for the destruction of artefacts." 

In a statement to NITV News on Tuesday, METKA EGN said only a "small number" of artefacts were impacted.

They said they had engaged with Wiradjuri people to commission cultural awareness training following the incident.

Mr Saddler said METKA EGN had not engaged with any of the registered Aboriginal parties about cultural awareness training until after that statement had been provided to NITV News.

But he welcomed the development, saying he had been raising cultural awareness with METKA EGN since July.

"At that stage actually, they hadn't spoken to us and we didn't know about that until today (Wednesday)," Mr Saddler said.

"We have been wanting to give METKA an induction and have wanted to help them with their awareness programs for a long time - since the incident happened where artefacts were destroyed."

In response to questions about this on Wednesday, METKA EGN said they had been discussing cultural awareness training with the registered Aboriginal parties since late 2020.

"With the support of Wiradjuri Traditional Owners, [METKA EGN] looks forward to moving ahead with a cultural awareness program at its Wagga Wagga project as soon as possible," they said.


'You just don't do this'

Mr Saddler said he is glad METKA EGN has opened to "genuine conversation" with him and other Wiradjuri Traditional Owners, but is taking the process cautiously.

"We want to make sure this process is right," he said.

"The community also needs to understand that we've lost a lot. Money won't sort that out but something has to happen to prove to the world you just don't do this."

Mr Sadder said he will still push to have the fine increased, and the fine money invested in a new cultural centre for the community.

He said there are a number of other initiatives he hopes METKA EGN will also take up.  

"We want to have a local Wiradjuri employment strategy in those solar farms," Mr Saddler said.

"We want to have signage on the front gate that welcomes people to Wiradjuri Country and let them know METKA are working on Wiradjuri Country.

"We want to have in their induction process not mention that there may be an Aboriginal artefact on-site on page 77 of the induction... but we want that at the top - a METKA and Wiradjuri Welcome to Country and have a bit about Wiradjuri people and artefacts first."

Company responsible for destruction of Wiradjuri artefacts 'deeply regrets' it
"Incident was caused by an administrative error," says the international company.