Another Wall in Need of Felling

Following a protest climb to the summit of Mt Warning on Australia Day 2024 by members of Save our Summits Australia, Reopen Mt Warning Facebook group and local Ngarakwal custodian Sturt Davies Boyd,  the libertarian John Ruddick MLC suggested a parliamentary petition with a view of generating enough signatures to trigger a debate on the access issue in the NSW Legislative Council. Labor’s upper house leader and environment minister, Penny Sharpe, agreed to a debate if 10,000 signatures of NSW residents supporting reopening were to be achieved by May 2, 2024. 

Over the course of the next three months through a combination of promoting the petition on social media, countless kilometres devoted to dropping off about 30,000 flyers, community meetings, media interviews and a summit climb with locals on April 13, the required number was reached. Despite the misplaced agenda of some online bushwalking and climbing groups which declined the opportunity to join us in restoring non-racial, all-comers access to this wonderful summit we ended up with nearly 11,000 signatures. The promised debate, such as it was, came on May 9, 2024.

Driving down to Macquarie Street for the debate, Save our Summits Australia members and Ngarakwal custodian Sturt Davies Boyd stopped briefly in the Breakfast Creek carpark at Mt Warning with a message for the minister. The plea “Tear Down This Wall” were fixed to the timber wall that bars access to the summit track, echoing Ronald Reagan’s inspiring call to Mikhail Gorbachev at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in 1987. The Berlin Wall fell two years later and East Germany’s communist regime along with it, ushering a new era of freedom in Eastern Europe. As campaigners for equal and unfettered access to Mt Warning we can only hope this wall is torn down much sooner than the decades it took for Germany to be reunited.

Nor was Reagan the only figure from history that came to mind. In 1517 Martin Luther nailed his thesis to the door of a church in Wittenberg and changed the world. In hope that this one small, precious part of the world might soon be blessed with sane and rational, non-racist access policies, Sturt nailed his own message to the Mt Warning wall. We weren’t seeking the reformation (though in respect of Aboriginal Ideology one is probably overdue) we had just two demands:

1/ for the Minister to announce a timeline for reopening the summit track, and

2/ to tear down the apartheid wall erected across the summit track entry by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The two hardly souls rocked into NSW Parliament the next day, joined by myself and former NPWS anthropologist Howard ‘Harry’ Creamer plus a few other supporters to observe democracy in action. None of us would leave impressed.

Despite being allocated 90 minutes, the “debate” lasted little more than half an hour. Onlythree speakers took the opportunity to voice opinions: John Ruddick Greens member Sue Higgenson, and minister Sharpe. Hansard is available for those interested in the details.

Ruddick dealt only in established facts, quoting Aboriginal elders and Creamer’s extensive research and reports that conclusively demonstrate arguments about the supposed sacredness of the mountain (used by the government to close it) are a modern invention, an entirely fabricated contemporary version of Aboriginal mythology with no links whatsoever to Dreamtime belief. Ruddick also drew attention to the ridiculous demands in the Aboriginal Place Management Plan, approved by Coalition ministers Matt Kean and James Griffin. In October 2022 they signed off on a plan that:

♦ closes the “Aboriginal Place” (all areas above 600 metres, which includes the summit) to ‘unsanctioned peoples’,

♦ discourages the public from visiting Wollumbin AP (particularly aimed at nearby schools).

♦ closes the entire national park by extending the “Aboriginal Place” to cover all of the park,

♦ seeks to control development in all areas of the Tweed Valley that can be viewed from the mountain that would ‘impact on the aesthetics, connection to Country and the cultural landscape which are integral to the cultural values of Wollumbin,

♦ Exerts control over the use of commercial photography of the mountain, and

♦ controls research that might challenge the assertions behind the above measures

Ruddick also addressed the immense economic damage the closure has caused, indicating $50 million in tourist dollars lost over during what is now a four-year closure.

The Greens Sue Higgenson (right) spoke next. Not surprisingly, Higgenson’s rant was rooted in high school level, race-based politics. Apparently all those present were genocidal colonisers and the matter could only be debated by those of the appropriate skin colour.  Shamefully she ignored Sturt Davies Boyd’s presence in the public gallery.

Minister Penny Sharpe then spoke, ignoring all the evidence presented to her by Harry Creamer months before. She said it’s a complicated issue, blah, safety concerns blah blah, more discussion needed blah blah blah and yet more blah. Sadly and to their great shame, no Liberal or National members provided any input. And thus, with a brief parting shot from John Ruddick excoriating the Greens and the government, the debate was over.

I had hoped the minister would take the opportunity to listen to our modest request to provide a reopening timeline but it seems this is now, like the mountain’s future, in limbo. From a practical perspective the road to Mt Warning remains damaged, with repairs not due for completion until April 2025. While local access via a short detour still gets the visitor to the foot of Mt Warning, I can see the government arguing that access must wait until repairs are completed. The upside to this delay, allowing that the shameful closure is reversed, provides the government with 11 months to correct mistakes in the woeful management plan, clean up the track, splash a lick of linseed on the weather beaten timber rails at the summit and reopen the mountain to all Australians.

Thankyou to Ngarakwal custodian Sturt Boyd. Your mother and grandmother would be proud of you today and long may we hear Marlene Boyd’s wonderful call “to go to the summit and witness creation”. Our parks belong to all of us. The repugnant ideology of racial exclusion can’t be allowed to continue determining access to our natural wonders.

The fight to reopen Mt Warning will go on. I am by nature a law-abiding person, but the Mt Warning closure is so wrong at so many levels that I call on all fair-minded Australians to take the initiative and hike to the summit in defiance of an irrational, heartless and unjustified policy of exclusion

Marc Hendrickx is geologist. He blogs at Right to Climb

16 thoughts on “Another Wall in Need of Felling

  • exuberan says:

    This is happening all over Australia and must to be stopped.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    I agree with Marc Hendrickx here. All and anyone in, or none in. Probably the summit of Mt Kosciuszko would be off limits to the public at large, were it not political suicide for any politician to adopt that policy.

  • S A Benson says:

    I understand Lake Eyre is the latest on the left’s apartheid agenda for our country. It’s a disgrace.

  • ARyan says:

    The real reason the access has been closed is because the place has been “loved to death”. Overcrowded by selfie taking tourists and trashed by locals with discarded camping detritus, beer stubbies and articles of underwear. Stinking piles of droppings fouled further by a junk food diet, decorated by streamers of used toilet paper fluttering in the breeze. Track destroyed by rain and new ones dug out no doubt by all of you adventurous mountain bikers. Plus the road in damaged by weather and 4WDs. You, my friends have turned this place into a pig style and it is you we need to keep out.

    • Blair says:

      “The real reason…:
      Why wouldn’t the Minister give the real reason?

    • March says:

      Clearly you have not been there recently and are talking from the wrong orifice.

    • David Isaac says:

      I am not quite sure whether you are just mocking the establishment talking points or actually making this argument however I climbed the mountain just before the closure and several time previously over the last thirty years and can attest that this is utter bollocks. It’s the same defamatory nonsense still inculcated into tourists visiting Ayre’s Rock. The path remains narrow, difficult near the summit but in good condition.

  • NarelleG says:

    Thank you for your perseverance Marc.
    Great work and passion.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    I’ll be driving to Brisbane in September so I will look to include this walk on the way. Are there any impediments to one just rocking up and walking? Park rangers etc? Would I need to take evasive action?

    • March says:

      Come prepared for an independent approx. 9km return walk from the carpark. There have been issues with vandalism of cars in carpark so consider contacting Wollumbin Palms or the caravan park about a possible ride. Plenty of leeches about so plenty of aerogard. The first 4kms of track are still ok with a few trees to scramble over and a bit slippy when wet. The rock scramble to summit, take care with foot and hand holds but it’s not an issue for experienced walkers. Check out recent posts on the reopen Mt Warning Facebook page for more info.

  • Ross Tucker says:

    It is a great walk. Perhaps one of the best ways to see it is to start 2 hours before sunrise (you will need a torch). You won’t see the leeches and they might not see you.
    What you will see is a wonderful sunrise.
    Closing these geographically interesting places to the public is a penalty for no committed crime.
    Entrusting such places to NPWS – now that is a crime.

  • Paul W says:

    Some are more Australian than others.
    That is why Marc should get Australian of the Year.

  • alandungey says:

    The notion that “the traditional owners object to” other Australians climbing or walking in or visiting particular places, which was utterly unheard of before Ayers Rock was handed over to an Aboriginal Group, is now spreading all over Australia – Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley, and Lake Eyre in SA. More power to you, Marc!

  • Paul W says:

    What is most disturbing is the abysmal debate in parliament. Other than the problem of having only 3 speakers on the matter, the discussion seemed focused entirely on Aborigines. That is already to concede the ground. Aborigines are not the only people to live here and they do not have some kind of exclusive right over it. This isn’t reconciliation.

  • cbattle1 says:

    Storm the Bastille! It is time that the people be mobilised and take their country back! I’ve been up Mt. Warning a couple of times, and what impressed me was that I was standing on the neck of a long-eroded enormous volcano, the outlying sections of the caldera wall can be seen far in the distance. Very Humbling! Of course, I pay my respects to that venerable navigator James Cook, who gave it that name because it rose above the clouds and gave him warning of the coastline which was obscured by the low cloud. Cook played a seminal role in the history of the modern nation of Australia which we are happily living today.

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