60minutes - Pilbara Aboriginal Rock Art

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:23
ThreadID: 35269 Views:2670 Replies:9 FollowUps:11
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Did you see that the WA govt is trying to destroy a huge Aboriginal rock art site on the Burrup Penninsula in the Pilbara. The detail in these pecked rock engravings was amazing, and there is a push to try and get this site listed as a World Heritage site. But the next door major industrial gas and iron ore development makes so much money that they want to expand and wipe out this culturally significant site. I'll spend my tourist dollar to go see this site. Cannot believe sites like this are still being destroyed.
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Reply By: Footloose - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:27

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:27
Beddo, totally agree. Sadly, the politics of money will probably dictate that I never get to see them.
Are they accessable to the average tourist I wonder, or part of some giant industrial estate at the moment ?
AnswerID: 180320

Follow Up By: Des Lexic - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:01

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:01
Footy, we were there last year and as the pictures show, they are close to the Gas loading docks. They are not behind any locked off area and are everywhere. Some looked a bit dubious (seemed fairly new) to us but many to our untrained eyes, they appeared original.
It would be criminal if the WA Govt allows the area to be disturbed in any way.
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Follow Up By: Footloose - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:33

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:33
Thanks, Dezzie. Sounds like a potential tourist site slap bang in the middle of a giant industrial complex. My son worked on that complex for a while but didnt get around. If he goes back I'll tell him to go looking.
If we get that far we'll take a bo peep, last time I stuck to the highway and didnt go into town.
I can understand the newish nature of some paintings. I'm told that the locals appoint a custodian who nicks out to do a touch up job every once in a while to preserve some of their stuff. I could be wrong, but I've seen evidence of it elsewhere.
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Follow Up By: cloughie - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 13:21

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 13:21
Next time up there,don't stick to the Hwy go in and visit Dampier.Off the coast is the archipaeligo which is a group of 42 islands and is truly a nature wonderland.
Local companies will take you out and you can even camp on many of them.Most visitors just go to Karratha and stock up and move on.Other bypass as they think it is just another town.I consider Dampier and nearby Point Samson to be absolute musts on the tourist trail.
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Reply By: Member - Bware (Tweed Valley) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:35

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:35
Funny (not!) that this sort of chit still goes on in our 'politically correct' society. To be up for heritage listing it must fulfil alot of criteria which it probably does, on the other hand, some private company that stands to make big dollars and is bleep in the government's pocket. Hmmm, how do you think it will turn out?
AnswerID: 180322

Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:36

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:36
Same story before they built the present gas processing. It still went ahead. Apparently the peninsular is full of ancient rock carvings. I didn't see any, but there is a huge amount of rocks and i didn't know where to look.

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AnswerID: 180323

Reply By: Pterosaur - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:40

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:40
There is an online petition concerning protection of the rock art at :

Burrup Petition

Everyone with any interest in the preservation of our heritage should check it out
AnswerID: 180324

Reply By: Pilbara Wayne - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:55

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 22:55
The Rock Art is easy to find and there is lots of it. Doesnt mean that it can be destroyed though.

The easiest place to find it is just off the road out to Hearsons Cove. About 2/3rds the way out there is a track to the right. Follow it down to some trees, park up, and walk in towards the rocks. There is a plaque there to show it is a significant site and details about the middens and rock art in the area. Follow up into the small valley between the rocks and you will see it everywhere and in great detail.

Worthwhile looking for.



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Follow Up By: Footloose - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:00

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:00
Thanks, Wayne. I'm planning on being around that way in a few weeks, and if I get the chance I'll definately go looking.
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Follow Up By: Member - andrew B (Kununurra) - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:32

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:32
Gday Wayne,

What was your opinion of the story tonight (if you saw it). I was a little skeptical, as soon as someone makes claims (such as "the acid rain caused by the industry in the area") without data to back it is just another person with an opinion. Also Ray's comment about "this green valley" took a little credibility away from the story. (it could possibly have been green at the time he was there).

I am not for the destruction of such sites, but such sites I feel need to be properly investigated and catalogued, not banded about politically or on a few peoples emotions. It seems it is in your neck of the woods Wayne, what did you make of the story.

Cheers Andrew
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Follow Up By: Pterosaur - Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:43

Sunday, Jun 25, 2006 at 23:43
If you check the site I've listed above :

1.There have been and are a number of studies being carried out
2. Damage is caused by
(a) relocation and/or destruction of rocks with art
(b) acidic emissions from the industrial complex
3. This is not an "either/or" proposition - from what I have seen, there are a number of alternative sites available for the industrial complexes being planned/built which will avoid any damage to the site.
4. I didn't see the "60 minutes" story, but if you Google "Burrup" there is quite a bit of information about what is happening there, and the alternatives.
5. There is a forum which has a fair bit of information about the issues and research, at

Burrup Forum

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Follow Up By: BenSpoon - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 14:12

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 14:12
I found the story funny.
"Why not build it here? 600 square kilometers of flat land!" about 20 km away..
Because Ray, Thats a Floodplain and no where near the water, let alone a deepwater port for the vessels and no where near where the trunk comes onshore. What a bleep .
"This green valley" Well, he was right on that one. After cyclone season, the scattered spinafex plants do look a little green from kilometers away.

I hope he saved his company some money and got some shots of barrow while he was up that way so he can do exactly the same article on that.
I might dob him in to the terrorist hotline for suspiciously filming and monitoring major infrastructure.

Footloose- While you're out that way, check out Withnell and the hills around there. It doesnt take long at all to find the art, And its worth a look. If you are looking at spending a night or 2 there, go right up the peninsula- Theres some magic beaches on its west coast looking onto the islands past the "jump up"
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Reply By: fisho64 - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 00:40

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 00:40
I work up that way myself, but I didnt see the 60 minutes story.
I dont know where all the "rock art" is situated, but I would have thought that the stuff mentioned at Hearsons Cove would be at very minimal danger from either the LNG plant or the new Ammonia plant, given that the prevailing winds are southwest in summer and southeast in winter, and Hearsons cove is located SE of both of these facilities?

yes those facilities provide many thousands (literally) of jobs and contribute a disproportionate amount of money to Australias foreign income, so its not so simple as "move it somewhere else"

to provide another side to the issue, I would find it hard to believe that somewhere under Sydney or Melbournes vast sprawling area, some significant art or area of cultural significance etc wasnt destroyed/buried??
AnswerID: 180338

Follow Up By: Snowy 3.0iTD - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 08:39

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 08:39

Although many will probably jump on you for saying as much I have to agree with you. No I am not for the wilful destruction of heritage sites, but I don't think most Australians outside of WA have a clue just how much the Australian ecconomy and their current prospersous way of life relies on the export revenue of the industrial powerhouse of the North-West. And although I did not see the story, I am little skeptical of quality reporting shows such as 60 mins, A Current Affair, Today Tonight etc, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

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Follow Up By: fisho64 - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 12:12

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 12:12
Cheers Snowy,
after looking at the link above, they say that there are many many sites, that I dont know about, but of course it isnt good if that is the case. I guess you also need radicals on both sides to find a happy medium in the middle.

But I wont be signing the petition, as the damage is about done and there is no going back now.

I was put off the petition straight away as the first section I read was
"FACTS ABOUT LNG PLANTS" and the first line was
"The Burrup (Murujuga or Puratha) development plans of the state government of Western Australia are perverse."

That sounds like an opinion to me unfortunately, not a fact.
Problem is I guess, that the only place these sights are looked for and found in WA is where there is going to be a development. There could well be thousands of them out there.

Other thing is that the development was started in the 60's, and at that time it appears that no-one, government, greenies or blackfellas (only surmising here) cared enough to put much effort into stopping it.
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Follow Up By: richopesto - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 16:57

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 16:57
fisho64 you nailed it:

"But I wont be signing the petition, as the damage is about done and there is no going back now. "

The whole idea of the unfettered access to Burrup is so that the art and the area is (hopefully) defaced and degraded in cultural worth and significance. - thats not my personal opinion, obviously.
I dont live in Wa but I suspect the Gov. has an attitude of "there's so much rock art and other significant sites out there, if we protected it all we'd never be able to dig stuff up" (or build ports and infrastructure etc etc)

I hate to say it but, your probably right.

FollowupID: 436670

Follow Up By: fisho64 - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 19:17

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 19:17
probably the point I am making more, is that no-one should judge/condemn the actions of people 40 years ago by todays standards. Just as with Bomber Harris, Winston Churchill, the stolen generation, early settlers etc etc.
FollowupID: 436703

Reply By: Beddo - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:14

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:14
Yes it might bring big money to Australia, so we can spend big bucks to ensure this site is protected ! I am sure in this age we can do that. Yes Aboriginal sites all over Australia are being destroyed for development purposes, with the money gov't get for permits to destroy I wish it would go to conservation of Aboriginal Culture elsewhere. Thousands of artefacts are in old farm sheds etc or in gov't lockup never to be seen and in most instances these are not held in an appropriate environment ie museum climate controlled environment. Out at Mungo NP the local Aboriginal community along with National Parks is working on a large cultural centre with climate controlled storage area. Artefacts are to be returned back to the people who will care for them. It is funny that we conserve European heritage dating back 200yrs but when it comes to Aboriginal heritage dating back 2000yrs to 40 000yrs or so, we don't really care. There is a cave locally with hand stencils etc near me on the Central Coast of NSW and archaelogical excavation has dated to site to atleast 6000yrs. Sure development must go ahead but with care for cultural heritage, surely future development can be moved away from the site not to impact on it. Can you imagine an industrial development happening alongside Stonehenge, Easter Island, Anzac Cove etc I think not.
AnswerID: 180368

Reply By: Rod W - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:22

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 10:22
As I was watching that I thought of another place the WA Environment Minister gave to go ahead to (against her departments recommendations) all for the sake of a few iron ore dollars in the short term. It’s in the Yilgan Region here in WA, unofficially called Windarling Range, it’s about 10ks north of a peak named Windarling Peak. In addition to a plant that grows only on this range and therefore rare and endangered, the range itself which on the northern side was a shear cliff that jutted up some 100 metres from the surrounding plains it also had huge iron monoliths/pinnacle’s jutting up from its southern side. One of the monoliths had three peaks, which I named WA's Three Sisters, another one was like a hunched over old man, one was like a baseball glove and there was a finger like pinnacle about 5 metres tall. The top of the range consisted of a ridge varying between 6 - 12 metres wide. It was quite spectacular. But it’s all going to be gone. I'm glad I got pictures of how it was.
AnswerID: 180371

Reply By: cooper127 - Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 23:40

Monday, Jun 26, 2006 at 23:40
Lived here for 16 years .Go out to the Peninsula as often as possible up the "jump up"(a small hill full of boulders that the tojo handles well if you use common sence,the only way to get ther from land) and also saw the program. The gov has not!!!!!! tried to hide this area.Most people wont take there cars up the "jump up" to have a look. Maybe Woodside is causing acid rain ,maybe 40,000 years is taking its toll, but i'll say that to wipe out this area would take an atomic bomb.Green Valley? Record rains from cyclones in an area that had no rain for years makes any area green. A real pity Ray Martin and his crew took Photos of the nearby burrp fertilizer plant spewing out steam not smoke etc. All these people whinge about the loss of heritage. Ask the local tribes how much money woodside and pilbara iron have given to them,how they have set up clinics for them ,tried to provide better housing,set up day care clinics , provided better medical facilities.Other comments are right about the quality of the carvings. Must be looking in the wrong places but have never seen any that good quality. Amazing what the right light and touch up of films can produce.Come in Summer Ray!!!!
AnswerID: 180522

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