Voice Special Edition

Locking Us Out of Our National Parks

Marc Hendrickx is a geologist who blogs at righttoclimb.blogspot.com. The first part of this article appeared in Quadrant in June 2019. The second part is an edited version of the speech he gave on January 14 this year at a community rally in Murwillumbah devoted to debating the ban on the right of non-Aborigines to ascend Mount Warning. The third part appeared on Quadrant Online in July.

Part One: Climb the Rock Now While You Still Can

In a few months time one of the most exhilarating, awe-inspiring experiences of the natural world, the climb up Ayers Rock, will be banned. With the ban, Australia will become the only nation to outlaw awe and wonder. The park board ignores the actions and words of past traditional owners who climbed the Rock and supported visitors climbing. What sort of malicious organisation would ban access to a place that has generated so much joy?

In regard to its name, the Rock at the heart of our country has two: Uluru and Ayers Rock. The dual naming recognises a shared history, and officially either name may used, together or separately. The name Uluru recognises the 4000-year cultural attachment to the rock of its Anangu owners. The name Ayers Rock celebrates European discovery and scientific advancement.

I strongly believe that visitors to our national parks should be free to use established public spaces and walking trails without being fettered by irrational religious beliefs or petty bureaucratic restrictions and regulations that serve no useful purpose other than to make life easier for underworked officials. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for Parks Australia and their state equivalents if the public simply stopped intruding and exploring these magnificent natural places that they pay for with their taxes!

There is still time to make a difference and ensure this life-affirming experience is available to future generations. About 60 per cent of visitors to the Rock have done the climb. We need to ensure future generations also have this wonderful opportunity to engage with the natural world and see those summit views that are protected by a United Nations World Heritage listing.

Since 1991 the Board of Management of the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park in concert with Parks Australia have been disseminating many falsehoods about the climb up Ayers Rock. My book A Guide to Climbing Ayers Rock, in exploring the history of the world’s most famous hill climb, explodes these myths and shows conclusively that past traditional owners climbed and supported visitors climbing, that the climb is a safe activity with little risk to responsible visitors, and that it is still an activity that many visitors want to undertake. Just about everything Parks Australia and the park board say about the climb is a myth—even what they say about the weather can’t be trusted.

Respecting the traditional owners: As you approach the base of the western climbing spur you will face a sign that purportedly expresses the views of the traditional peoples of Uluru, the Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra people, who these days call themselves “Anangu”. The sign reads, “Under our traditional law climbing is not permitted”. If you read the official guidebook you are told, “Due to cultural reasons Anangu do not climb Uluru.” In the 1990 management plan this was expressed in the form, “We never climb”.

It doesn’t take much research to work out that this “We never climb” message is false. There is a rich history of Aboriginal people climbing the Rock, and it goes back to the very first humans to arrive in the Red Centre about 30,000 years ago. These pre-Anangu peoples, who did not share Anangu culture but like all humans shared a curiosity about the natural world, likely climbed during the last ice age and watched the end of the megafauna and the climate change with the surrounding dune fields stabilised by vegetation during the early Holocene. They left their mark in the form of rock carvings—marks the Anangu believe were done by dreamtime spirits. Anangu culture emerged around Uluru about 4000 years ago. We know this because their creation myths include the dingo, which was brought to Australia from Asia around that time. We know Anangu climbed for generations.

Elders climbed with the anthropologist Charles Mountford in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and shared stories about summit features that had been passed down for generations. In the 1940s tourists wanting to climb would be guided by local Anangu men. The most famous of these guides was Tiger Tjalkalyirri, who guided Lou Borgelt and Arthur Groom to the summit. Borgelt’s visit is preserved in some colour film footage recently restored by the Lutheran Archives. A highlight of Borgelt’s film is the camaraderie between tourist and guides. Such goodwill is missing from the confected, highly regulated and politically correct tours at our modern UluRules.

Many past visitors who climbed have recounted having no problems with local traditional owners. In 1969 David Hewitt, a long-time Northern Territory resident who worked with Aboriginal people in the Ayers Rock area for decades, climbed with the daughters of Anangu elders, which busts the myth put out by the board that the climb is for men only. In the 1970s it was made clear by the man recognised as the principal owner of the Rock, Paddy Uluru, that traditional people climbed it.

Derek Roff lived at the Rock with his family between 1968 and 1985. The longest-serving ranger at the park, in the 1990s he gave a comprehensive interview with the Northern Territory Oral History Unit about his experiences managing the park. He reveals all about Aboriginal attitudes to climbing. In his seventeen years managing the park he says that tourists’ climbing was never raised as an issue by traditional owners. In relation to traditional owners climbing, he says:

Paddy Uluru used to tell me about climbing the Rock. It seemed to me that it was mainly the senior, traditional people who climbed, rather than everybody. But there was no doubt about it, that ceremonies were carried out in certain areas up there, that people did climb it. I’m just trying to think of the name of the Aboriginal people who went up with Mountford … Lively Pakalinga, Nipper’s brother, older brother. He climbed it with Mountford, and explained some of the stories up there and what-have-you. So, I must say, certainly it was climbed—not maybe by everybody, but certainly by the traditional people.

The board of management owes the Australian people an explanation for the many decades they have spread their never-climb message.

People who climb these days are told they are disrespecting the views of traditional owners. While they are certainly disrespecting the views of the park board and the misguided bureaucrats of park management, in climbing they are in fact respecting the views of owners who were born at the Rock and had lived a traditional life—men more aware of their customs, their land and its laws about access to the summit than the current board made up of people who have come from elsewhere.

Tiger Tjalkalyirri, the first climbing guide, should have a statue erected in his honour at the base of the climb for helping to bring two cultures together. Tiger was able to walk with one foot in each world, his traditional world and the new world being imposed by the tide of history. Tiger’s voice, singing traditional songs and telling stories, is preserved in the National Library. At the Rock he was a great entertainer and encouraged visitors to climb. In an omission that shows great disrespect, his name and deeds are not mentioned in the current plan of management or in any official tourist information about the park.

In the 1970s Paddy Uluru was the man in charge of the park. Derek Roff was the ranger but on Aboriginal issues he was guided by Paddy. In an interview with Alice Springs journalist Edwin Chlanda, Paddy stated, “If tourists are stupid enough to climb the Rock, they’re welcome to it.” He also said “the physical act of climbing was of no cultural interest”.

In the early 1970s Derek Roff asked the traditional owners if there were any areas around Uluru they wanted closed to the public. Paddy consulted with thirty-five owners and came back to Roff with just one site: Warayuki, the men’s initiation cave. Roff promptly acted to close public access to this area by erecting a fence and signs. This work was recorded in 1975 by the ABC current affairs program This Day Tonight. The reporter, Grahame Wilson, interviewed Paddy’s brother Toby Naninga. He asked: “Aside from Warayuki, do you mind tourists going anywhere else?” Toby replied that anywhere else was all right. He later joined Derek Roff’s staff of rangers working for the Northern Territory Conservation Council.

So aside from Warayuki, “anywhere else is all right”. I’d argue that guided access to Warayuki would be a wonderful opportunity to share Anangu beliefs with visitors in the same way visitors are permitted access to the inner sanctums and altars of other religions. These ideas and beliefs belong to all of humanity and deserve to be shared.

Climbing not only respects the views of traditional owners but also the views of land councils. There was considerable animosity between the Northern Territory government and the Hawke federal Labor government about the handover of the Rock to traditional owners in the 1980s. The Territory government had argued the handover would effectively end tourism at the park. The federal minister at the time, Clyde Holding, sought assurances from the powerful Central Land Council and Pitjantjatjara Land Council and got this telex from them in November 1983:

Before the facts are further muddied in the NT election campaign it is essential that the position of the traditional Aboriginal owners is clearly stated.

  • The Aboriginal people have always recognised the legitimate tourist interest in the national park.
  • They have always supported the concepts of leasing back the park to the Commonwealth.
  • They have consistently asserted that the park will always be available for the benefit of all Australians.
  • They have always supported a joint management scheme in which Aboriginal, conservationist and tourist interests would be represented.
  • They have no intention of unreasonably limiting access to Uluru National Park.
  • Basically for the visiting tourist it will be business as usual.
  • Any rare and limited restrictions necessary for ceremonial purposes are likely to be confined to those sites already registered as sacred by the NT Government’s own Sacred Sites Authority (and already subject to restrictions).
  • Such ceremonies should be respected as a vital part of traditional Aboriginal life.
  • The Aboriginal traditional owners believe that Aboriginal ownership and involvement in Uluru substantially enhances the commercial tourist potential of the park.
  • The Yulara project will not be affected by Aboriginal ownership of Uluru. The Aboriginal people have expressed no interest in seeking to operate motels within the national park.
  • Indeed, Aboriginal traditional owners welcome the Yulara project in that it locates tourists away from their local Mutitjulu community and thereby reduces the impact of thousands of tourists a year on their way of life.
  • It follows that the granting of title to the Aboriginal traditional owners will not jeopardise investment in the Yulara operation.

The Hawke initiative is an excellent measure which recognises the long-standing spiritual attachment of the Aboriginal people to this area whilst preserving the interests of tourists and conservationists in the park.

So not only were the words and actions of a few owners supportive of the climb, but climbing also had the support of the land councils—“for the visiting tourist it will be business as usual”. At the time, before Parks Australia’s nanny-state closure protocols came into being, about 75 per cent of visitors climbed.

The board tells us that Tjukurpa, the Anangu belief system, is unchanging. Based on the views of the old men who were born at the Rock and were well versed in the land and its laws and who supported the climb, either Tjukurpa is as open to change as any other system of belief, or the current board in its malicious act of banning the climb is effectively committing an act of blasphemy.

 Safety: There are many more myths about the climb, and chief among them is the notion that climbing is not safe. If you can’t discourage them with political correctness then scare them with disinformation about safety. In its “Fact Sheet” about the climb, Parks Australia states:

The climb is physically demanding and can be dangerous. At least 35 people have died while attempting to climb Uluru and many others have been injured. At 348 metres, Uluru is higher than the Eiffel Tower, as high as a 95-storey building. The climb is very steep and can be very slippery. It can be very hot at any time of the year and strong wind gusts can hit the summit or slopes at any time. Every year people are rescued by park rangers, many suffering serious injuries such as broken bones, heat exhaustion and extreme dehydration.

The five memorial plaques at the base of the climb, hidden away just to the south of the start, commemorate the first five tourists to die climbing the rock. In an act of destruction on par with the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, Parks Australia and the park board, against anything written in the current management plan, are moving to destroy the plaques, along with the climbing chain and the summit monument, after the ban comes into force. These acts of destruction are proceeding with the approval of the current government. The summit monument has appeared in millions of summit photos and would celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2020. The directional plaques on the monument guide visitors to views listed as World Heritage. In these perverse actions Parks Australia and the park board have placed this heritage in danger.

Like the idea that traditional owners never climb, assertions about safety also don’t stand up to close scrutiny. There are a number of ways to tackle this misrepresentation. Arthur Groom described the climb before the chain was installed in 1947 as “nothing else but a strenuous and spectacular uphill walk” and that description still fits for experienced bush walkers. People of all ages have climbed, including eighty-year-old grandmother Sarah Esnouf, who climbed without the assistance of the chain in 1957 as part of the Petticoat Safari, a TAA tour of women of all ages that highlighted the wonder of a visit to the Red Centre. Children as young as four have climbed unassisted under the watchful eyes of their parents.

The real myth about safety is in the numbers. Parks Australia claims thirty-five people have died on the Rock since the first in 1962. I tried to obtain details of these deaths including the names, where people were from, how old they were and where on the Rock they died, but Parks Australia was unable to produce any data. In November 2017 in an interview the park manager Mike Misso provided an insight into those figures: “Yeah, look over 30 people are known to have died from climbing, and what I mean by that, people could, um, you know, potentially climb it, go to the resort and then you know, could have a heart attack later.” So Parks Australia bases its figures on people who potentially climbed the Rock and died sometime later in the resort. I can see why they decided against providing the data.

My own research has provided evidence for eighteen deaths on the Rock—six from falls and twelve related to heart failure. One woman and five men, all under the age of thirty-two, have fallen to their deaths. The twelve heart attacks were all suffered by men, one of whom was forty-four and the rest over fifty-two. There have only been two deaths on the Rock this century, in 2010 and in 2018, a few weeks before I climbed with my daughters. A similar number of deaths have occurred to tourists at Kata Tjuta, but Parks Australia and the board are not proposing to close walks there.

The alarming description from Parks Australia doesn’t seem so scary and it falls to pieces when one looks in more detail at the actual risks. An analysis of the risks associated with climbing provides a stunning rebuke to Parks Australia propaganda that the climb is dangerous. For responsible climbers under the age of fifty there has only been one death. Given 75 per cent of the 7 million people who have climbed fit into this category the risk in micromorts (the micromort is a unit of risk defined as a one-in-a-million chance of death from a given activity) is just 0.2 micromorts. For responsible climbers over fifty there are eleven deaths from 1.75 million climbers, providing a risk of 6.3 micromorts. The average risk for climbers is just 1.7 micromorts. The same risk can be provided by the following activities: driving a car 800 kilometres; riding a motorbike just two kilometres; flying 3000 kilometres; flying to Ayers Rock from Sydney provides the same risk as the climb. For comparison, the climb up Mount Fuji carries a risk of 15 micromorts. Typical daily exposure for all causes of death amounts to about 20 micromorts per day (one in 50,000). For people under fifty, undertaking the climb represents just 1 per cent of the average daily risk.

It is clear when you look at the facts that Parks Australia and the park board have grossly exaggerated the risks of the climb to serve their own warped agenda and the warped views of the current board of management.

The proportion climbing: Another myth about the climb is that less than 20 per cent of visitors want to do it. Again this myth can be busted by simply observing action on the climb on those rare occasions when park rangers decide the clear blue skies and mild morning temperatures make it obvious there is no excuse to keep the gate closed.

The 20 per cent figure is one of the great fallacies about the climb. It is simply due to the fact that Parks Australia nanny-state closure protocols, those UluRules, keep the climb closed 80 per cent of the time. Most of the time visitors simply do not have the choice unless they break the law. The ridiculous closure protocols, enforced by rangers who in the absence of working meteorological instruments at the summit are forced to guess the weather, mean the climb is fully open, from sunrise to sunset, only 10 per cent of the time. Only on those days can a reasonable gauge be made of visitor intentions. Despite the many years of propaganda about the climb and the cautious closure protocols, the overall proportion of visitors who have climbed is about 60 per cent.

To clarify the actual numbers, Parks Australia installed climbing counters between 2011 and 2015. There were many problems with these. Counters under-reported climbers by an astonishing 30 per cent and equipment failures meant many days went unrecorded, including most of 2014.

The actual data, sourced via a freedom-of-information request, paints a different picture from that put out by Parks Australia and the board. On those days when the climb is open from sunrise to sunset and visitors have a full choice of activities, on average, allowing for under-reporting, 44 per cent still choose to climb, and those numbers show no trend over the sampling period.

There is still time: The facts presented above do not make it into any official Parks Australia publications. The board does not celebrate past owners who climbed and had no issue with visitors climbing. This is in breach of the lease agreement for the park. Section 17 (2) states:

The lease covenants that the flora, fauna, cultural heritage, and natural environment of the Park shall be preserved, managed and maintained according to the best comparable management practices for National Parks anywhere in the world or where no comparable management practices exist, to the highest standards practicable.

The climb, chain, memorial plaques and the summit monument are items of universal cultural heritage significance that Parks Australia under law is required to preserve, manage and maintain. By their actions it is clear Parks Australia and the board inhabit a dark alternative Orwellian universe, one in which the “highest standards of management” somehow provide the means to ban the climb and destroy our collective cultural heritage. Where there should be a statue to honour legends like Tiger and Derek there will be more UluRules complete with a fence, and the prospect of severe punishment; a metaphor for ignorance and closed minds.

As I write there are only about 200 days left before Parks Australia and the board ban the climb and destroy the chain, the five memorial plaques (did they ask or even inform the relatives?) and destroy the summit monument. There is still time to force the government to overturn this ridiculous decision that in the long term will hurt the traditional owners.

Seven million people from all over the world have climbed Ayers Rock, revelling in the beauty and majesty of the summit views and exhilarating in the physicality of the climb. We owe it to their descendants and the descendants and relatives of Tiger, Paddy and Toby to fight to ensure the climb remains open so millions more can experience the same wonder and joy.


Part Two: The Brush Turkey and the Bureaucrats

Thank you for coming today. You can all be proud of standing up in support of continued public access to this remarkable 20-million-year-old natural wonder, this grand volcanic edifice, that looks over this wonderful town and country. The underlying principle of park management should be that we are all able to enjoy the natural world on our own terms without interference from petty bureaucracy and the ideologies of others. Long-established trails and walks in our parks deserve to be properly maintained and open to all. Those that do not want to climb or visit the park are free not to do so, but they have no right to impose their views on others seeking the awe, wonder and serenity of this outstanding natural place.

Over a century ago in 1909 the good people of Murwillumbah saw the value of their mountain, and volunteers from the town carved a track to its summit that included a set of drystone retaining walls that deserve heritage listing but have been ignored by the current park management. The track was so good you could ride a horse to the base of the rock scramble a couple of hundred metres from the top. Try doing that today along what’s become a narrow, neglected, overgrown single track. Between 1909 and 1929 the people of Murwillumbah petitioned the state government to preserve the area for posterity for all Australians, regardless of race or religion, as a national park.

The park was officially opened on Saturday, August 3, 1929, by the state’s Attorney-General Francis Stewart Boyce. Lucky him, he got to ride a horse almost to the summit with his wife. The ceremony was attended at the peak by over 200 people, mainly school children from Murwillumbah—they were tougher in those days. It would have been fairly crowded at the top.

The Tweed Daily covered the event. It says the opening ceremony “is another link in local history, and consummates a deep wish of many of the Tweed’s leading citizens to have the reserve dedicated for public recreation and a sanctuary for wild life of all kinds”.

Those present, aside from the Attorney-General, included the Mayor of Murwillumbah, Alderman A.R. Black, along with councillors and other dignitaries and people from Murwillumbah and the surrounding region, including delegations from Nimbin, Lismore, Grafton and Casino. It was truly a regional event.

In his speech, Mayor Black praised the efforts of volunteers in maintaining the track. To the many children at the summit ceremony he “urged the boys and girls to remember that the park was theirs and that each could be a trustee in his or her own little way. He said the park was a memorial of the beauty of nature and of the bountiful way in which God had blessed the Tweed and the people of Australia.”

Alderman Rudd stated, “The opening of the park was an historic occasion, for the area would be a haven for all time, and would be famous for years to come as a tourist resort.” Attorney-General Boyce said those who initiated and carried out the scheme to reserve the park deserved the highest compliments for their enterprise, “so this gorgeous and beautiful spot is dedicated to the people forever”. With that, the park was declared open.

Between the opening in 1929 and the early 1970s tourism in the area grew and increasing numbers of people visited the park, putting pressure on maintenance and parking and the summit.

In the 1970s and 1980s the National Parks and Wildlife Service undertook extensive anthropological research into parks under its control. For Mount Warning, the anthropologist Howard Creamer, who is still around, undertook extensive interviews with Aboriginal elders including the last “Gulgan” or keeper of Mount Warning and its tribal folklore: Millie Boyd. In her interview, part of which is available on YouTube, Millie Boyd called Mount Warning Wulambiny Momoli. This has the meaning of “scrub turkey nest”—the mountain was an “increase site” where hunting was forbidden so that brush turkeys could replenish their numbers.

If you look at the profile of Mount Warning from the north, you can see the turkey sitting on its nest. It is as plain as day. No wonder this view inspired the story. In the foreground, north-east of Mount Warning, according to Millie, is Wollumbin the Warrior lying on his back on James McKenzie’s property, looking at the stars. Its name was stolen by NSW Lands and incorrectly applied to Millie’s turkey. Recently we have been told a new story about Wallumban as a place of Caterpillar Dreaming. Mount Warning has many Aboriginal names, each one depicting different Dreaming lore, but we are told all are connected.

Shamefully, this important cultural group with proven links to the mountain and its stories has been ignored for the past twenty years by NPWS bureaucrats. Ngaraakwal elder Marlene Boyd, daughter of Millie, worked to expose the misinformation being promulgated by NPWS. In 2007, not long before her death, she challenged the Bundjalung claims and stated: “I do not oppose the public climbing of Mount Warning. How can the public experience the spiritual significance of this land if they do not climb the summit and witness creation!”

No less shamefully, none of this wonderful mythology has made its way into current management plans for the park, including the Aboriginal Place Management Plan released last year. None of this has been provided for in signage at the base of the summit walk. Marlene Boyd’s wonderful affirmation of humanity and of what many of us seek when we bushwalk is not on a sign at the summit. Instead NPWS bureaucrats have for twenty years misled the public about the nature of Aboriginal beliefs about the mountain and promoted the ideology of just one group, the so-called Bundjalung Nation, which seeks to ban the public from the entire park. In the declaration of the area as an Aboriginal Place in 2014 we are told there are at least eight Aboriginal stories about the mountain. We are told each story is equally valid, with no one story taking precedence. How then can NPWS justify promoting just one over the others? They can’t, but they have nevertheless been getting away with it for nearly two decades, deliberately misleading government ministers and the public. I asked the state Ombudsman’s office to look into this wilful deception but they declined to investigate.

In Howard Creamer’s interviews with elders in the 1970s and 1980s, the elders never raised the issue of the public climbing Mount Warning. NPWS management plans in 1985 acknowledged the importance of the mountain to Aboriginal groups but indicated there were no actual artefacts found on the mountain, stating: “There are no Aboriginal sites recorded in Mount Warning National Park although Mount Warning itself is considered by Aborigines to be of great significance.”

In the century since the track was opened, the summit has been visited by millions of people—men, women, children, families. They have come, as I did, as we all do, to enjoy the peaceful journey through the rainforest and experience the remarkable views of the north coast from the mountain’s summit.

We climb for a multitude of reasons—for the pure joy of it, for the physical challenge, for the view. Looking out on that remarkable landscape from the summit is humbling. It provides a sense of perspective and insight into our place in this world: we are but small specks in the face of such grandeur. It shows us we are part of a bigger whole, that what we see is worth protecting, worth preserving for the future. The vast majority of those millions of visitors left just their footprints behind. NPWS have raised issues about waste and rubbish but these problems have been exaggerated and are easily solvable. NPWS need to look overseas at parks such as Zion National Park in Utah or the Diamond Head Walk in Hawaii to see how these places can be managed in a way that preserves natural spaces but also provides for sustainable public access. There are easy solutions available if they just open their eyes and look around. The minister needs to get his bureaucracy working for the people, not against them.

Issues have been raised about safety along the walk and the increase in the numbers of visitors requiring rescue. First, and I deal with risks like this as part of my work as an engineering geologist, the numbers are no greater than other walks of similar grade elsewhere in the state. Second, this issue arises largely due to NPWS mismanagement and lack of maintenance of the track. The track was built by volunteers to a very high standard in 1909, with horses able to walk almost to the summit. No one needed rescuing at the opening in 1929, before the climbing chain was in place, because the track was in such good condition. It is currently a narrow, overgrown single track with areas of exposed boulders that get slippery when wet—no wonder people are twisting their ankles. Many of these minor injuries could have been prevented if only NPWS had maintained the track to a standard appropriate for the high level of visitation experienced since it installed the lookout platforms in the late 1980s. This was perhaps the last time NPWS undertook proper management of infrastructure in the park. 

The current situation arises from the disgraceful neglect and mismanagement of the park by NPWS bureaucrats. I suspect most NPWS bureaucrats, based in Sydney or Byron Bay, prefer the comfort of air-conditioned offices to the exertion of the climb. They have been busy working for the last twenty years to make life easier for themselves. Since the mid-2000s they have been working on a “demarketing plan” to downgrade the experience of Mount Warning National Park, seeking to reduce visitor numbers. And it looks as if they will soon be successful.

Our political leaders, especially the Premier and current minister James Griffin, have lacked the courage to call out the misinformation, the lies about safety, the exaggerations about environmental issues and misinformation about the views of Aboriginal custodians. This disgraceful situation is an example of the worst management of public lands in the history of New South Wales, if not the whole country.

I call on the Premier and Minister Griffin, and the Ombudsman, to undertake an in-depth independent inquiry into the gross mismanagement of Mount Warning National Park and work to restore public access as soon as possible.

Today we gather together to celebrate the mountain’s history. To remember how good and special it was to walk to the summit with friends and family or on our own to watch the sun rise over the Pacific. We call on the state bureaucracy and our political leaders to work with us, the Aboriginal custodians and other stakeholders towards a solution that will restore public access to the park and its summit so all our children and grandchildren through the ages to come can experience the same joy, awe and wonder as we have.

In 1929 Mayor Black entrusted the boys and girls at the summit to look after the park. We assembled here today are the descendants of those summit children. It is up to us to protect our legacy. Once again, let this beautiful spot be dedicated to all people forever.


Part Three: Another Landmark Kidnapped

The closure for a week of Mount Tibrogargan and nearby Mount Beerwah, the highest peak in the Glass House Mountains National Park, like Ayers Rock and Mount Warning and so many other special places now permanently closed to the public on racial grounds, has more to do with politics than culture.

At Mount Warning security guards now stop all but one particular group of local Aborigines setting foot on a landmark that formerly belonged to all Australians. Yet those with the closest historical affinity to the mountain, the shunned Ngarakbal people, who support public access, have been ignored for more than twenty years by bureaucrats more interested in making life easier for themselves than protecting the nation’s heritage. Look at it through the eyes of a city-bound public service pen-pusher: a closed mountain means no more safety issues, no more rescues, no more outlays to maintain walking trails. Like the hospital in Yes, Minister with no patients, a mountain with no walkers is perfection itself.

It’s not about culture and never has been. It’s about the power of favoured minorities to control the rest of us and the incapacity of the bureaucracy to say “No” to unreasonable—indeed, irrational—demands.

Non-indigenous Australians have been slow to realise the full extent of the campaign to delegitimise them by the “progressive” political players who now control much of our public sector and government. These seat-polishers have embraced postmodernist concepts of race, gender and identity and melded that toxic woke cocktail with a weird respect for animism; taken together these factors trump history, science and what should be democracy’s most revered concepts, freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Pragmatism in managing our national parks has been replaced by impossible zero-harm safety targets that close walking tracks and restrict movement to carparks and paved trails. Combined with over-regulation, environmental alarmism, myth and superstition, all this has been happening under our very noses. If you’re a regular visitor to our national parks, when was the last time you saw a ranger actually looking after the place? When the bushfires come again, as they always do, bear in mind the cool-season preventive burns that weren’t done because officials were too busy placating spirits and closing off trails.

The time is overdue for long-silent Australians to stand up for our common ideals. If we don’t raise a fuss, we risk being locked out of so many wonderful things. Uluru has already been snatched, likewise Mount Warning and, in Victoria, some much-loved Grampians climbs are now off limits. I would argue that our unique landscape has helped forge the national character. Bureaucracy is now the threat to that heritage, meaning silence gives consent to the obscene idea that some groups of Australians are more Australian, more worthy of deference, than others.

The “temporary” closure of Mount Beerwah and Mount Tibrogargan could easily be declared permanent if not enough people protest. In South Australia the highest point in the Flinders Ranges, St Mary’s Peak, remains under threat of a permanent ban. Access for rock climbers in the Grampians is a complete shambles, and we may see further areas there closed off to climbers and hikers.

The omens are grim, especially if the Voice gets up. To quote the Prime Minister, “it would be a brave government that ignored the [Voice’s] advice”, with clues in Western Australia as to how much further the indigenisation of landmarks, national treasures and even private property will go—for instance, the recent state legislation awarding Aboriginal consultants a determining say on the disturbance of any ground of more than 1100 square metres. Already they can “advise”—forcefully, insistently and with the full backing of the law—on the danger dams represent to the contentment and survival of “water spirits”.

To those who can climb Tibrogargan this week, I urge you to do so. The best way to send the message that Australia belongs to all Australians is to let your feet do the talking.

6 thoughts on “Locking Us Out of Our National Parks

  • Surftilidie says:

    Even if the yes vote doesn’t get up, over here in WA, one wonders how long we will be able to hike along the Bibbulmun Track.

  • rosross says:

    Quadrant management needs to know that, I posted a link to this article and had a notice from Facebook cybersecurity that my post had been removed and I had a group ban because this compromised their rules on cybersecurity.

    I posted to a friend on her page, this:

    This is worth reading – https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2023/08-online/193203/
    Marc Hendrickx is a geologist who blogs at righttoclimb.blogspot.com.
    The first part of this article appeared in Quadrant in June 2019. The second part is an edited version of the speech he gave on January 14 this year at a community rally in Murwillumbah devoted to debating the ban on the right of non-Aborigines to ascend Mount Warning. The third part appeared on Quadrant Online in July.

  • ianl says:

    For some decades now there has been an even more egregious “carve-out” from simple geological viewing than being disallowed from climbing.

    Exploration flights (chopper, fixed wing) using various completely non-intrusive aero geo-sensing tools must have the geosensing *turned off* when flying over Kakadu. Presumably this is because any observation of possible potential economic interest will prove too much for political rectitude and development will occur.

    Book burning before the book is even written. I have no words acceptable here for the depth of contempt that creepiness invokes.

    • March says:

      How bizarre.
      For many years Geo Survey of NSW did not update basic geophysical data over Kosciusko NP.

      The high cost of the white elephant snowy 2 partly due to the lack of quality geological data in that area.

  • Greg Jeffs says:

    Why does the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, particularly Sec. 11, not apply to these parks? Presumably there is some legal trickery (maybe even within the RDA itself – haven’t read it all) that allows the racial exclusion to take place.

  • rosross says:

    I would just add someone else posted to a Voice group on Facebook that their link to a Quadrant article was also censored and removed.

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