Politics

A Regional NSW Council Is Hell Bent On Destroying Sacred Wiradjuri Land With A Go-Kart Track

“There’s a lot of land around Bathurst and only a lack of imagination and a lack of respect for First Nations’ culture would see the Council continue to persist with its plan to destroy Wahluu.”

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The NSW parliament has unanimously supported a Greens motion to protect sacred Aboriginal site Wahluu, also known as Mount Panorama, from being destroyed to make way for a go-kart track.

The traditional owners of the Bathurst region, the Wiradjuri people, have been opposed to the decision made by the Bathurst Regional Council to destroy sacred sites at Whaluu to make way for a race track since it was first announced. And while proposals for several alternative sites for the track have been put forward, they have all been rejected by the Council.

The Wiradjuri people believe the Summit of Whaluu was the location of a Bora ringsite, which was used for men’s cultural initiation ceremonies and the teachings of lore and men’s business. They say there is also a sacred women’s site on the shoulder of the mountain and a significant ancestral burial ground.

Wiradjuri people say the very shape of the mountain is paramount to the Dreaming Stories passed down from their ancestors from generation to generation, and that further destruction of the mountain would cause irreversible cultural and spiritual damage to their people.

Adding insult to injury, the page disclosed that work on the sacred women’s site is due to begin on March 8, International Women’s Day.

This week, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of Bathurst have protested opposing the track’s construction.

A post on the Wiradyuri Traditional Owners Central West Aboriginal Corporation Facebook group explains that the group are deeply disturbed by the announcement that sacred sites will be destroyed to make way for the novelty tourism venture.

Adding insult to injury, the page disclosed that work on the sacred women’s site is due to begin on March 8, International Women’s Day.

The Greens presented a motion to the NSW Parliament on Wednesday, calling for the protection of irreplaceable cultural heritage at Wahluu and to acknowledge the significance of the site to the Wiradjuri people. The motion was passed without any opposition across the Upper House with the Coalition, Labor, and the Greens all in attendance.

Although this does not guarantee the site’s protection, it definitely puts mounting pressure on the Bathurst Regional Council to reconsider their plans for the track works.

“There’s a lot of land around Bathurst and only a lack of imagination and a lack of respect for First Nations’ culture would see the council continue to persist with its plan to destroy Wahluu,” said David Shoebridge, Greens MP and First Nations Justice Spokesperson.

The Aboriginal community aren’t the only ones in Bathurst opposing plans for the go-kart track on the mountain, with a website and Facebook page called “Save McPhillamy Park” also urging locals to sign the petition or donate to the GoFundMe. The petition to “Save Mount Panorama” has garnered 2466 signatures, and hopes to reach 3000.

The Friends of McPhillamy Park website highlights the fact that proposals for the project were never put on public exhibition, and that it has snowballed from an initial cost of $350,000 in 2015 to a current estimation of $4.5 million.

Locals say that the Council’s plans would have gone unnoticed had they not seen the application to amend the original development plans, so developers could make the track international standard in length, causing even more destruction.

“This is 2021, and it is time that we start listening to First Nations people.”

To express their opposition to the project, Traditional Owners submitted a Section 10 claim for determination by the Minister for the Environment, Senator Susan Ley.

Without any determination being made in relation to the claim, Wiradjuri Elders said they were advised on 12 February 2021, that significant construction works’ and associated activities will commence in March, regardless of the status of the Wiradjuri Section 10 claim.

“The disrespect shown to the Wiradyuri Elders by the local council is appalling,” Arlia Flemming, Managing Principal Solicitor of the Elizabeth Evatt Community Legal Centre told Junkee. “This is 2021, and it is time that we start listening to First Nations people. The NAIDOC theme for this year is Heal Country. We desperately need to stop any further destruction.”


Jennetta Quinn-Bates is a proud Barkindji woman who is passionate about her culture and highlighting Aboriginal stories. You can find her on Twitter.