Tasmania’s Aboriginal Community are outraged a sacred cultural site is still being controlled by the state government despite being transferred back into the hands of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania in 1995.
The sacred Wargata Mina Cave in remote southwest Tasmania is only accessible by helicopter and is off-limits to anyone without a permit from the state’s Parks and Wildlife Department including Traditional Owners of the land.
Palawa woman and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre’s Nala Mansell said they only found out about the state imposed permits while organising an Aboriginal Community access trip.
“The state government have gone behind our backs and arranged for the helicopter company to only land in the area if they have granted permits to access the area.”
Ms Mansell said, the sacred and culturally important site holds numerous hand stencils dating back over 15,000 years.
“It is important we are able to take Community, Elders and young Palawa people to the cave so we can learn about the stories of our old-fellas and connect with our past.”
“Because the state government has taken over control without any consultation with the Aboriginal Community, we have no idea who’s been accessing our sacred cave or what they’ve been doing while they’ve been there,” she said.
“We have been told that they’ve been granting permits to their own government departments so staff can attend.”
Ms Mansell said they are concerned about the protection of that site while permits are being granted without their knowledge.
“it’s important anyone wanting to access the area seeks permission from the Aboriginal Community so that we can ensure its protected for at least another 15,000 years and we won’t be able to do that unless we have control over who can and can’t enter our sacred sites.”
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre said they have contacted the secretary of DPIPWE, the manager of Parks and Wildlife and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs but had heard nothing back until recent media brought attention to the issue.
The TAC has since taken phone calls from the state government but said “still no action has been put in place.”
Ms Mansell said the TAC are “now looking at charges of trespass against the state government for entering privately owned Aboriginal land without our permission.”
“We’re also asking the government to release information so that we are aware of all the permits that they’ve granted, so that we can follow up on that as well.”
“The government have a lot to apologise for in this state.”
Nala Mansell and the TAC have arranged a meeting with Tasmania’s Premier Peter Gutwein for next week, where they will discuss land return and Aboriginal Heritage protection.
“Hopefully, we’ll leave with some sort of promise that the Premier will acknowledge the wrong-doings of the past and do what’s right for the Aboriginal people of whose land he lives and works on,” Ms Mansell said.