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Indigenous Cultural Heritage and Climbing

Following some recent discussion on online forums this article will touch on something that will become more prevalent I think in the ensuing years. Cultural heritage and more specifically, indigenous cultural heritage.  Many of the areas we climb at contain cultural heritage sites.  Some of these are known sites whereas others have not yet been discovered due to the remoteness and size of the area. I have started a thread on Chockstone and also a new section on the CliffCare site that hopefully will be a good way of helping to bring information about cultural heritage to the climbing masses and what it means to us, how it affects us and how we can be involved in the future of climbing co-existing responsibily with the cultural heritage sites that are out there and in the areas we climb at.

Many people assume that these sites contain artwork. Indigenous cultural heritage can be artwork it can be sacred places or places where certain activities took place and may contain tools and artifacts.  And more often than not, in the case of non artwork, sometimes these sites may be a little difficult to ascertain whether they are a site or not.  

A discussion was prompted last year at the Bundaleer/Rosea working bee inspection by Dave Roberts, Ranger in charge at Halls Gap. This was re climbing and more specifically, bouldering in the Grampians, and more specifically, in the Victoria Range. They are aware of the new development that Vic Range has been undergoing for a while and would like to work with climbers for the best outcome for all.Below are some points highlighted from the Bundaleer inspection discussion.

Dave Roberts  is very interested in the explosion of bouldering in the Grampians, both excited to see the interest being shown and concerned at future directions. The concentration of intense bouldering activity on the Stapylton area is seen as desirable. The only active concern here is with large groups effectively “taking over” an area. This can be intimidating to other park users.

Parks would be concerned if intensive bouldering activity moved into the remote areas of the Grampians, particularly in the Victoria Range for a variety of reasons. A few aspects to this :

(a) Track creation to bouldering areas, particularly on top of the range. There can be a lot of impact if an area becomes popular. Parks is wanting to preserve an element of remoteness here. (b) Impact on cultural sites. The Vic Range has the largest number of indigenous cultural sites in the Grampians and these may well be in prime bouldering territory. The point to look at here is that these sites are all there is. Once one is damaged there will not be a replacement.

Dave Roberts is keen for boulderers/climbers to become engaged in discussion on these issues for two important reasons:

The first, and the imperative one, is to prevent damage.  At present Parks have no idea whether bouldering is taking place in sensitive areas.

The second is that boulderers could actively help the cultural program by identifying previously unknown sites . Something that could be useful is to have  some educational sessions with boulderers to help them to identify indigenous sites, suggest suitable behaviour around them and to identify areas which are generally culturally sensitive where bouldering should be avoided or undertaken only with great respect.

It should be pointed out that it’s not an attack on boulderers; there are similar concerns about the impact of other Park users.

So there’s a start for dialogue.  So far, there has been no feedback and this is what I really need.  I am sure that climbers and boulderers have concerns that these areas might become closed  if discussion takes place. This is a great opportunity to have your say and work towards preventing any issues from developing in the first place. I want to hear your concerns, suggestions etc  and look at it from climbers and boulderers perspective as well. I don’t think this is an issue that is going to go away and being involved in it from the start is a much better alternative to ignoring it and hoping it goes away.

Drop me a line, or two or three.

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