Dampier Archipelago

Dampier Archipelago

The Ancient Art of the Dampier Archipelago

Relocation of Burrup Rock Art dumped in the 1980s Welcomed by WA Greens

WA Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region and long-time Burrup activist Robin Chapple MLC has welcomed the relocation of more than 1700 pieces of Aboriginal rock art that were dumped to make way for Woodside’s North West Shelf LNG project.

The rock art, which is considered highly significant, had been kept in a Pilbara compound since the early 1980s until the relocation process was initiated in 2009 by the elders from the four groups.

Mr Chapple said the inclusion of local Aboriginal elders in the relocation and restoration process contributed strongly to the successful outcome.

“This was an important step by Woodside in recognising and remediating some of the past wrongs done in the Burrup and I congratulate them for that,” he said.

 “The Burrup Peninsula is home to the world’s largest, and oldest, collection of Aboriginal rock art with some of the paintings and carvings dating back more than 30,000 years.

“The cultural significance of rock art here cannot be overstated and I’m glad it’s finally starting to get the recognition, and respect, it deserves.”

Mr Chapple said he hoped restoration projects such as this didn’t encourage further development on the culturally significant Burrup Peninsula.

“Whilst this is a brilliant outcome for the local Aboriginal people, for the Burrup and for Aboriginal heritage in general there needs to be greater recognition that this place is too special to plunder,” he said.

“Currently, only about 44 per cent of the peninsula is protected by Murujuga National Park which, upon its creation in January last year, felt like somewhat of a token gesture.

“I would appeal again to governments state and federal, as I have many times in the past, to make World Heritage Listing of the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago a priority of national and international significance.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.

Karratha Health Campus a Recipe for Disaster

Wednesday 17 September

Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC has criticised the planned location for the new Karratha Health Campus, at which earthworks have already begun, as irresponsible and totally ignorant of climate facts.

Mr Chapple said it was irresponsible to base the safety of the site on 500-year storm surge data as this system did not take into account climate change.

“This is fundamentally a bad site to build a hospital,” he said.

“We have seen, and will continue to see, an exponential increase in climatic events throughout Western Australia.

“These climatic events are changing swiftly in their nature, becoming more extreme and less predictable.

“In the case of an extreme weather event the hospital, the lifeline for all those people affected, will be the first building to be wiped out; it’s completely exposed.”

Mr Chapple said the government should be taking every precaution with new infrastructure in Karratha if it wanted to maintain the long-term sustainability of the city.

“Just 2000 years ago this whole North side of town, all the way to the hills, was completely under water,” he said.

“Climate change is fact, we will continue to see an increase in the frequency and severity of weather events in Northern Australia, and we will almost certainly see a rise in sea levels.

“Only when governments and councils acknowledge and properly address the rapidly approaching doom will we have any chance of managing and mitigating its effects.”

Mr Chapple also said the site’s location was worrying because of its proximity to the ill-fated Pelago towers.

“There is speculation about the stability of the ground at the site,” he said.

“In particular, we are trying to ascertain whether the Pelago towers 1 and 2 are settling and what effects this could have on both the towers themselves and any new infrastructure, such as the proposed health campus.”

A report released today by The Climate Council, titled ‘Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding’, has outlined more clearly than ever before the potential fiscal impacts of climate change on coastal populations.

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.

Protection of Rock Art on the Dampier Archipelago

Legislative Council

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hon ROBIN CHAPPLE: The issue I want to raise this afternoon is funding for the protection of rock art on the Dampier Archipelago, and this concerns past governments of both persuasions and the current government. On Tuesday, 12 August, I asked a question of the Minister for Indigenous Affairs about the number of Department of Aboriginal Affairs staff who were placed on the Burrup Peninsula to manage and protect the national heritage–listed petroglyphs. The answer was that no staff were located permanently on the Burrup, the department was not aware of the recent spate of vandalism on the Burrup and that the graffiti that had been reported to date was historic in nature and outside the 12 months prosecution limit. Let us go back to what has been stated by governments, in the court and at different times. We know that vandalism has been going on in the Burrup for some considerable time. If I remember rightly, it was mentioned back in 2003, 2005 and again in 2008. It has been an ongoing problem. It was even identified in 2007 when Hon Malcolm Turnbull placed areas of the Burrup on the National Heritage List. The problem has been around for a long time.

At the same time as the debate was occurring around the Burrup’s national heritage listing, the then state minister indicated that staff would be placed permanently in Karratha to deal with those related matters of vandalism. It is interesting to note that earlier on the Leader of the House, in responding to a question put in 2011, stated that staff would be placed permanently on the Burrup to manage the issues and there was a program in place for officers to be placed there. Just prior to that, we asked how many officers were located in Karratha, Hedland and a couple of other locations. I know we got an answer that there were two officers in Karratha and two in Port Hedland. Now we have a situation in which the government will manage the process from Perth, which is against what was indicated at the time of the national heritage listing and also, interestingly enough, when the matters were before the native title hearing, the state responded to comments made in that hearing by saying that should damage occur to the rock art, the state had the responsibility to cover the rock art in plastic and/or buildings or “sheds”. If members know anything about the Burrup Peninsular, it is 114 square kilometres containing over a million and a half petroglyphs, so that would have been a very expensive process. For so long there have been so many commitments that this material is going to be protected, and it is concerning to me that consistently we have seen Aboriginal heritage values and staffing of the regions decline dramatically.

We also have the issue that in the Burrup and Maitland Industrial Estates Agreement—signed by the state and the negotiating parties: the Wong-goo-tt-oo, the Yaburara Mardudhunera, and the Ngarluma Yindjibarndi—it was stated that as part of the protection of the heritage of the Burrup, rangers would be provided, and that when the Indigenous rangers system came into being they would be trained and given prosecutorial powers over heritage matters in the area. That agreement was signed in 2003, but still, unfortunately, nothing has happened.

During the break I had the privilege of taking 30 visitors, including heritage officers or archaeologists from the United States and the eastern states, for a tour of the Burrup. We again were struck by the continuing level of vandalism. It is interesting that the minister’s answer of Tuesday, 12 August stated —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is not aware of a “recent spate of vandalism” in the Burrup.

Why? Because it does not have any officers up there and relies on third parties to give it the information, after which it might then visit. The answer further states —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs heritage compliance function can be effectively serviced from Perth and its five regional offices. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs continues to work with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation to ensure that damage caused by graffiti is minimised and protection of heritage is achieved.

A number of years ago vandalism occurred and a site was desecrated. DIA officers were immediately dispatched to the area and efforts were made to try to protect the site and minimise the damage. Now, because we are doing everything from Perth, it seems a long way from which to be able to do anything meaningful on the ground.

But the department has an option. It has a moral responsibility, as part of the BMIEA established in 2003, to ensure that the rock art is protected. The minister went on to state —

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs prosecutes offenders through the appropriate investigation of complaints. The proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 will significantly enhance enforcement provisions. The current draft Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill includes an increase in penalties, from $20 000 to $100 000 for an individual …

That is really interesting, because individuals can be prosecuted to the tune of $5.5 million under the current heritage legislation already. The mere lifting of the fines to that level will actually do very little, because the department already has the powers to impose very, very significant fines. The problem is that we actually have nobody up there doing the jobs that were committed to over many, many governments.

I urge the minister to get his department to look at the number of issues that have surrounded this over time and what has been done, and what was committed to be done into the future. It is quite clear from the answer in June 2011 that a number of budgets were in place to assist in the development of a ranger program, a monitoring program and the placement of officers to manage the process, and it has all fallen into one deep, dark black hole.

Greens Call on Government to end Burrup Hypocrisy

17th July 2014

World Heritage nomination of Murujuga - the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago - is long overdue, and should be made a priority by the state and federal governments, according to Greens Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple.

Mr Chapple said it was ridiculous that neither government had taken the lead on protecting Murujuga, the significance of which has been widely acknowledged.

“We have this situation at the moment that is essentially a deliberate stalemate,” he said.

 “The federal Minister for the Environment is calling on our Premier to take a stand, who in turn is stating it is not within his power to do so.

“Whilst in opposition Colin Barnett called Murujuga ‘the most significant heritage and anthropological site in Australia’ yet his government continues to approve, and encourage, industrial development there.

“Again, by the Premier’s own admission, as much as 20 to 25 per cent of rock art in Murujuga has already, regrettably, been destroyed by industrial interference.

“I appeal to the Premier to stop this continued vandalism once and for all, and give the Burrup Peninsula the protection it deserves.”

The Murujuga National Park, announced in January last year, was a significant step towards ensuring the protection of the Burrup Peninsula and Dampier Archipelago but at just 49.3 square kilometres it covers only 44% of the Burrup’s total area.

Mr Chapple said the government was using the successful creation of Murujuga National Park to cover up its intentions for the rest of the archipelago.

“Whilst I applaud the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation on their cooperation with the government in ensuring the protection offered by national park status, it is a great shame that the government won’t increase its protection to the archipelago in its entirety.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255

The Greens call on Premier to stop Burrup Stupidity

19th August 2013

“Shocking news has come to light with the information that the Burrup Peninsula is once again under serious threat. Burrup Materials Pty Ltd has taken out a number of leases for mining activities in this area, which is of significant importance to the Roebourne Aboriginal community.

“This area is on the National Heritage List, thanks to the former federal Liberal government, and has been extensively surveyed, revealing thousands of petroglyphs (ancient Indigenous rock carvings).

“The Burrup has the largest concentration of rock art in the world, and is an extraordinary cultural landscape telling the story of ancient Aboriginal occupation over the past 30,000 years.

“Hamersley Iron (owned by Rio Tinto) was the former owner of the area now in question, but recently handed the lease back to the state government because of its heritage values, and to ensure that the rock art would never be mined.

“It is noted that in the Warden’s Court on Friday the 24th of May 2013, Hamersley Iron lodged an objection against the 3 leases held by Burrup Materials Pty Ltd, a single entity company directed by Mauritz Leon Kurt.

“How the government could even let such a crazy proposal get to first base defies belief.

“This state is the subject of growing international concern, as the value of the Burrup as an archaeological treasure becomes more widely known – unless the government clearly demonstrates that projects such as this latest one are not welcome on the Burrup, we will become an object for ridicule.

“I appeal to the Premier to stop this continued vandalism once and for all, and give the Burrup Peninsula the protection it deserves,” concluded Mr Chapple.


For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255

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Chapple commends Government on creation of Murujuga National Park, wants to see details

Greens MLC for the Mining and Pastoral Region, Robin Chapple, has congratulated the Barnett government on the creation of Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula near Karratha, with a caveat.

“This is the first small step towards World Heritage listing of the Burrup, something I have been campaigning for since 1994,” Mr Chapple said.

“It is of concern however that the area being set aside is only a small portion of the Burrup Peninsula, leaving some 6,400 hectares unprotected and available for industrial development.

“The original proposal in 1990 was for the declaration of the Dampier Archipelago National Park that would have included the Burrup and all 42 adjacent islands. The Murujuga National Park falls far short of that.

“The Premier first made a commitment to protecting the area in 2006, when he acknowledged the age and scale of the rock carvings and referred to the Burrup as ‘probably the most important heritage site in Australia’ and ‘up there with Uluru’.

“The petroglyphs of the Burrup are thought to range from 200 to 30,000 years, making most of them many times older than the pyramids.

“We have a responsibility to the rest of the world to protect and preserve them.

“That includes protecting them from the corrosive effects of carbon dioxide, sulphur and nitrogen emissions from the nearby liquefied natural gas industry and the fertilizer factory. If we don’t act immediately we risk losing them altogether.

“It is also critical that visitor access and the activities of sightseers are managed to avoid the type of damage that occurs all too often on the Burrup. Just last year vandals scraped graffiti into rocks that also displayed an 8,000 year old petroglyph.

“I look forward to reading and commenting on the Management Plan.

“I shall continue to campaign for World Heritage listing for this unique and priceless ecological and archaeological area,” Mr Chapple said.

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255


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