An interim protection order has been granted for the site known as ‘Dyurrite 1’ at Taylors Rock / Declaration Crag, in the Mount Arapiles – Tooan State Park. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams announced the decision on Friday.
The interim protection order is valid for three months and can be extended for another three-month period. It is the first ever interim protection order granted under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Dyurrite 1 is a small rock shelter containing more than 50 Aboriginal rock art motifs, undetectable to the naked eye. The site is in an area known to climbers as the Brain Death Boulder.
As a precaution, Dec Crag was closed to park users last December. According to an update issued by Parks Victoria yesterday, it will remain closed.
‘While not incorporated in this Interim Protection Declaration, recently rediscovered Aboriginal cultural heritage values at the adjacent rocky outcrop known as Dyurrite 2 remain protected by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. To ensure visitors do not enter that area and potentially cause harm, a temporary exclusion zone that was established in December 2019 will remain in place until a longer-term management approach is determined with Traditional Owners.’
Parks Victoria also issued a map of the interim protection area and the temporary exclusion zone.
As co-managers of the state park, Parks Victoria and Barengi Gadjin Land Council will implement the interim protection order by clearly demarcating the protected site using low impact, natural log fencing, installing signage, and through ongoing monitoring, a spokesperson for Parks Victoria said.
Individuals face fines of up to $297,000 for disturbing the site.
In yesterday’s ABC Wimmera news, Natimuk local Keith Lockwood voiced the concerns of many climbers when he said that he was worried the ban at Taylors Rock could lead to bigger restrictions on the whole mountain.
‘Half of the people here in Natimuk have moved here because of Mount Arapiles; the town would die (if climbing was stopped),’ he said. ‘The climbing community and local community want to embrace and enjoy and share the culture.’
Parks Victoria is currently carrying out cultural heritage assessments of registered rock art sites across Mount Arapiles.
The Chief Executive of Barenji Gadjin Land Council Michael Stewart told the ABC that the rediscovery at Taylors Rock ‘was really exciting, and we are really thrilled to be part of recognising the site and ensuring it’s there for future generations.’
Mr Stewart said he hopes more community engagement will be done in the coming months as the area’s long-term protection is considered.
‘Unfortunately due to COVID-19 restrictions and the vulnerability of communities and elders… we are in a hard place to do a thorough engagement,’ he said.
‘We are hoping to do that in the next 3–6 months so we can really inform future decisions.’