Marcus Strom has written a powerful article for the Brisbane Times, on the importance of engaging Traditional Owners in the conversations and processes leading up to World Heritage listing by UNESCO. In particular, he analyses what is happening with Murujuga’s site, on the Burrup Peninsula in WA, as well as the lack of action from the State government. Friends of Australian Rock Art strongly believe that traditional custodians should be engaged and consulted.
As FARA had revealed last year, the Western Australian government did not put forward any sites of this heritage rich State. “WA Environment Minster Albert Jacob attended the 2015 meeting. His government has suggested zero sites for such listing.” writes Strom.
Lack of protection a missed opportunity
Not putting forward any heritage rich and culturally significant site is certainly a missed opportunity – both to engage with the Aboriginal custodians, their communities and to promote tourism and ancillary industries in the relevant areas. According to most experts, the Burrup holds the largest collection of petroglyphs in the world, and this includes the oldest known record of a human face on the planet. Worryingly, it is also the only Australian site to have been listed on the World Monuments Fund’s most endangered sites.
There is evidence that points out that achieving World Heritage status by UNESCO is a driver for further tourism. This is what has happened with Ningaloo Reef in Exmouth. Even the WA Tourism Office points out that the site is listed. Back in 2007 the then environment minister Malcolm Turnbull had listed Murujuga as a National Heritage site. Both Labor and Liberal politicians have publicly expressed commitment to listing, however no further progress has been made in the last ten years.