Saturday, December 23, 2006

Removal of Ancient Rock Art in Western Australia

This is one of the pieces of rock art that will be removed to build a liquid natural gas factory

Today Woodside Petroleum says it will begin removing rock art from sites in the Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia as soon as possible.

The refusal by the federal Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell to protect what the National Trust describes as "one of the world's largest collections of rock carvings, which date back tens of thousands of years." is an embarrassment for every Australian.

Not only are the petroglyphs of the Dampier region the intellectual property of the Yaburara, Ngarluma, Mardudunera and Yindjibarndi Aboriginal peoples, they are part of the cultural heritage of the human race.

There has not been any sort of comprehensive study or catalogue made of the vast storehouse of art in the region (estimated at over a million carvings). To quote from "Archaeology and rock art in the Dampier Archipelago: A report prepared for the National Trust of Australia (WA)" by Caroline Bird & Sylvia J. Hallam:

There has been no comprehensive study of the Dampier rock art. It is clear, however, from descriptive accounts, that the sheer quantity and variety of the art makes generalising about the whole area problematic. The few detailed studies of smaller areas all show the complexity of the art and its intimate relationship with other cultural remains.

The failure by the both state and federal governments in Australia to protect the rock art of the Dampier is a breech of the UNESCO Declaration concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage:

"A State that intentionally destroys or intentionally fails to take appropriate measures to prohibit, prevent, stop, and punish any intentional destruction of cultural heritage of great importance for humanity, whether or not it is inscribed on a list maintained by UNESCO or another international organization, bears the responsibility for such destruction, to the extent provided for by international law."

The final bitter twist in this nightmare is that what Woodside wants to do is build a plant for a liquefied natural gas project. This fossil fuel producing plant has been described by THE FEDERAL MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT Senator Campbell as "the biggest natural gas project in Australian history". Should he not be describing it as a source of millions of tons of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere?

A petition against the removal of art from the Dampier Peninsular can be found here:
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