• John Clarke from the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation surveys the damage to the ancient site. (The Point)Source: The Point
A land caretaker says he is sorry over a mistake involving potential damage to rocks at protected site for Indigenous people.
By
Stephanie Corsetti

Source:
NITV News
7 Apr 2021 - 1:26 PM  UPDATED 7 Apr 2021 - 4:24 PM

Aboriginal Victoria has begun investigating potential disturbance to the Kuyang stone arrangement at Lake Bolac. 

Authorised officers attended the site along the Glenelg Highway this week and met with the caretaker of the land to discuss the next steps. 

Local Indigenous Elders have been gathering nearby, concerned about the several metres of rocks that have been removed. 

Aboriginal Victoria said the age of the stone arrangements was difficult to determine, but some may be thousands of years old. 

They warned substantial penalties of up to $300,000 can be applied for damage to cultural heritage.

John Clarke from the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation said the protected site was archaeologically significant. 

“It’s quite difficult to fathom the removal of this and what it actually means for us as people,” Mr Clarke told NITV News. 

“We hope that if there is a lesson in this, (it's) that we value these things and we believe that everyone can value them as well.” 

“We really don’t know the state of the rocks, we don’t know what condition they are in. Can we reorder them? We don’t know, there are so many unknowns at the moment," he said. 

The fact that the stones, believed to outline the shape of an eel, had been moved at all was a shock and disappointment to Mr Clarke. 

“I’m surprised given the notoriety of this particular stone arrangement locally, such is the notability of it. The local townsfolk... have taken a sense of pride over having this in our area, so much so that the local townsfolk have an eel festival," he told NITV News.  

“I think the legal proceedings have got to take their course first and then you know I would like to see the government step in as a matter of urgency and seize the land,” said musician Neil Murray, after discovering the site damage. 

“We knew we had the special dreaming site here to do with the eels, Kuyang," he said.

"Most people I know were aware of it,” Mr Murray said. 

The state government said it is waiting for the investigation outcome, but it noted the significance of Indigenous sites.

“There are some remarkable (Aboriginal) heritage sites across western Victoria, tens of thousands of years old," Victorian Minister Jacinta Allan said.

"They are an important part of our cultural history.” 

An order has been issued to prevent any further harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage.

'Deeply regret the upset and the pain'

The caretaker of the land said he is ready to work with Indigenous leaders to restore the stones. 

But Adrian McMaster said there was no clear boundary to distinguish between the eel shape of the rocks and other protected stones.

“We weren’t aware- there has never been any markings of the Aboriginal stones in my lifetime and I believe my father’s lifetime as well," he said about the family property.

"So I don’t believe we have been shown correctly the heritage of the stones,” he said as the land's caretaker. 

“We deeply regret the upset and the pain this has unintentionally caused to many people,” Mr McMaster said.

He said the stones were removed for safety reasons to cut down thistles which posed a fire risk on the land.

“Where I was going to run the boom spray, there were some a line of rocks which I was not aware were heritage rocks so I’ve removed them to make it easier for the boom spray to cover as much area as possible to make it safer for us and for the community,” he said. 

Police and protesters clash at Djab Wurrung Embassy camp
Police mobilise to clear Djab Wurrung Embassy site of protestors in the wake of the felling of a 'Directions Tree' yesterday, while the Victorian Premier stresses his government's ongoing engagement with Eastern Maar Traditional Owners.