• Mount Panorama in the New South Wales town of Bathurst. (AAP)Source: AAP
Traditional Owners in Bathurst are fighting to stop a planned go-kart track on top of a sacred women's site, with works set to begin on March 8.
Shahni Wellington

18 Feb 2021 - 4:51 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2021 - 4:51 PM

The deadline to convince local council to relocate a proposed go-kart track, to be built on a sacred women's site in Bathurst, has been set for International Women's Day. 

Wiradyuri Traditional Owners have been opposed to the $4.2 million dollar development for years and are fearful that works will go ahead regardless of the site's cultural significance. 

Wahluu, a place central to a Dreaming story, is also known as Mount Panorama.

An identified women's site on Wahluu has been marked for the new go-kart track, with the irony of works beginning on March 8 –International Women's Day– hitting home for the Wiradyuri Traditional Owner group.

Wiradyuri man, Yanhadarrambal Jade Flyyn, told NITV that TO's won't stop until the area is protected.

"We'll do everything we can, within any mechanisms of law that we put our hands on, any legislation that we can invoke, we will do absolutely everything that we can to try and stop the desecration and destruction of the sacred women's site," he said.

"They are within their legal right to go ahead, but the moral argument is: it's a women site, why would you build a go-kart track on a women's site?"

The Wiradyuri Traditional Owners Central West Aboriginal Corporation has lodged an application for protection of the site with the Federal Minister for Environment, Sussan Ley, which is still under consideration. 

Pressure is mounting on the Bathurst Regional Council to find an alternative location, with a motion passing in New South Wales parliament on Wednesday.

It recognised the significance of Wahluu to the Wiradjuri people and the need to work with TO's to find a different site for the track.

Bathurst Regional Council was contacted for further comment on the looming start date.

Plea for alternative site

The Wiradyuri Traditional Owner group opposes the location of the go-kart track but not the project itself.

Multiple surveys and environmental assessments have been done on the area.

Bathurst Regional Council said the assessments done to date "have revealed a lack of archaeological evidence to support the historic use of Mount Panorama (Wahluu) for more than ephemeral use", but heritage reports that have been viewed by NITV News question the suitability of the area for a go-kart track.

One prepared by Associate Professor Neale Draper in 2019 recommended a "detailed and appropriate anthropological examination" of the area.

"On the face of it, it seems to me to be wholly inappropriate to build a go-kart track on top of a women's sacred site, particularly considering all of the damage that has occurred previously to cultural heritage sites and values in relation to Wahluu and the nearby Charles Sturt University campus," the report said.

The report from Extent Heritage Advisors commissioned by the council in 2018 also suggested consideration of an alternative site.


Request denied for last ceremony

A request, seen by NITV News, for a final private ceremony to be performed at the site was denied last year by Bathurst Regional Council on the basis that it is "considered not suitable for public access." 

Acting General Manager of Bathurst Regional Council, Alan Cattermole, said in a statement that no formal request to access the site had been received from any party.

With March 8 approaching quickly, TO's worry there will be no access granted with the major motorsport event Mount Panorama 500 planned from 26th to the 28th of February.

In a video posted online, Wiradyuri Traditional Owner, Dinawan Dyirribang, spoke about how it felt to be denied a last ceremony on the sacred site. 

"As a Traditional Owner it makes me sick to the guts," he said in the video posted in 2020.

"For us, we need to do a ceremony for the land, and for the ancestors there."

"The ceremony is a way of trying to heal the land before this destruction happens.

"It's basically like denying somebody, as a Christian, their last rites to be read to them," Dinawan Dyirribang said.

While the site has cultural significance to traditional owners, members of the local community are also lobbying for the location to be changed.

More than 400 people are supporting 'Save McPhillamy Park', which refers to the name of the parcel of land donated to the Bathurst community 80 years ago.

A rally opposing the development took place before the council's general meeting on Wednesday.

Traditional Owners to continue fight against proposed go-kart track
Wiradyuri Elders in Bathurst say they will do whatever it takes to save a sacred women's site on Wahluu from destruction.