Yuukan Gorge one day, a Week After Canberra, and now Kariong, Will it Ever Stop?
By Steven & Evan Strong
We have fought for many sacred Original sites over the past decade and always lost. Sadly we have so many to choose from for this report. The extremely sacred men’s site at Cedar Creek readily comes to mind, which is now a quarry, undeniably Yuukan Gorge is of tragic importance at the moment, barely a week after Canberra turns up, and while still trying to get our heads around the intricacies of that site, two days later and out of the blue a location of immense significance and power I have been to no less than thirty times, is about to be permanently desecrated.
And so it goes on and on, same story each time. Granted there are minor variations in the plot and players, but each time when money and Original culture collide Black-fella Lore always comes second to the regal White-fella law. Since the time of Cook’s proclamation and raising the flag, White-fella law means that Black-fella Lore is an outlaw. And worst of all, to this very day White-fella law also means that Black-fella tribes don’t have their land anymore. Ever since the invasion a nation of tribal estates were illegally stolen then, and nothing has changed now.
Yes, racism is a solid part of this equation of post-Cook neglect and genocide, but sometimes that term is falsely used to hide what lay beneath where in many exchanges something more sinister is at play. Yuukan Gorge has been trashed by a White-fella mining company, the Canberra site is teetering at the edge with White-fella developers still pushing forward, but deep down this has never been an issue of colour, but purely profitable economics. Simply because the group funding and proposing a 70-block suburban residential sub-division that runs right up to the border of many sacred sites is a Black-fella Lands Council funded by White-fella parliaments.
From my limited understanding, Gough Whitlam did not intend that Lands Councils should go forth and develop, but rather go forth to protect and defend. Surely such a sorry state of affairs was never in Gough’s charter, but alas, there is a very healthy forecasted profit on offer.
Big time developments, the logistics, upheaval, huge financial investments and constant noise, should never be the concern of any Lands Council. It is too easy to get shady, with the kick-backs, political lobbying, short-cuts, knowing the ‘right people, brown paper bags and a heavy dose of greed underpinning so many transactions, there is temptation afoot for Original people who rarely have an income that extends above the poverty line. We are not saying developments are inherently bad as such, nor making any direct criticism of a development whose specifics are unknown, but having a long experience observing how divisive Original politics is and how endemic the poverty remains, such ventures are often a recipe for disaster and mistrust within communities. It may well be this development will succeed and is predicated on good intentions through providing decent housing for Original people at an affordable rate, which is undeniably meritorious and desperately needed. Our concern is singular and solely about whether adequate provisions have been made to protect the archaeological gifts from the past. And as yet, that is not the case here and everywhere else.
Moreover, at first glance (admittedly second-hand) this development proposed looks like every other suburban extension of more of the same. Considering the place is an easy walk to so many amazing Original engravings, artefacts etc, surely there could something that blends and defends becoming more symbiotic in landscaping, types of buildings, provision of bush tucker plants and native fauna. We can’t see any way to prevent the extra hundreds of residents (and their guests and relations) from wandering all over the place, into a sacred area already bearing the brunt of graffiti, scratches, mattocks, sweat, textas, knives and sheer neglect. There is not even one silicon drip line protecting any of the three hundred odd hieroglyphs at Bambara. It is the same apathy all over this place.
All of this damage only gets more likely as the entire area is unsupervised and showing it, in that respect increasing human presence here is tantamount to throwing petrol onto fire. The site is highlighted in overseas tourist publications, known of extensively and visited by tens of thousands of people. Nearly all that go are fine, but some go with malice and intentions to harm or insult the spirit of this temple. They take, break, cut, litter, show disrespect on hallowed ground and walk out with contempt.
Preventing access through any type of fence or buffer-zone is ineffectual, piecemeal and could never guard anything. The missing ingredient that can resolve this impasse is a permanent ranger and a regime and structure with guides escorting people to these sites which should carry a moderate fee. If signs are liberally posted explaining to everyone unescorted wandering is culturally insensitive, and the media and politicians unite in assisting, these roles and enterprises will grow and become self-funding. All the Lands Council needs to put aside is the initial first year of funding. People want to keep coming and looking, if done properly the market is already massive and can only grow, with local Original employment opportunities which will obviously be a welcome by-product.
Right now, this development proposal lacks adequate protective measures and therefore, is very bad business. Aunty Beve would say exactly the same, so it must be wrong and has to be changed or stopped. But just like it was at Juukan Gorge and Cedar Creek, all of this bad business takes a while to sneak up and explode or quarry. The Kariong saga goes back a very long way, we have been involved for close to decade, while with others who have fought for this sacred place like Nina Angelo and Jack Cassar, have been fighting for the same land to remain untouched much longer.
The Big Picture
In deciding whether this land should be cleared and densely populated, there needs to be an Original understanding of what the term land means. Forget lines on a map, title deeds, measurements and boundaries, that is the non-Original legal description of the purchase price and official dimensions in the title deed. All Original land is connected by tracks, ley lines, Dreaming stories, sacred objects and songs. While the commotion of exploding, clearing vegetation and quarrying to within a millimetre of a line in the map may be legal, it still kills the entrance, connections and eventually, the site itself.
What should be fully considered is not just what lays within and beneath the land set aside, but so too the close surrounds have to be acknowledged as now being under increased pressure and because of this, need to be part of every plan and development. In the selected stock-take we are presenting, it must be stressed that in both the one and two kilometre range categories the limit of ten and five finalists which I set, was drawn from a much larger pool of worthy contenders. Every site/engraving/gallery/facilitation point briefly discussed is not protected, listed as significant or cared for and there is no assurance that neglect will change. What can be guaranteed is that at many of these locations not only have the elements taken their toll, vandals, blades, mattocks and thieves have left their ‘mark.’ With the situation as dreadful as it is now, all this proposal can guarantee is no supervision and hundreds of unsupervised humans wandering all over a very sacred and utterly unique place.
Within a Kilometre
- Gallery Number 1, Bambara. Three hundred carved hieroglyphs of which one panel has been identified with a 92% match to Proto-Egyptian script. The other two panels are an older First Language script. The carvings on the third wall are severely affected by water running down the face. There was a sandstone stone roof that covered the entire gallery, one quarter of the roof still remains, the rest collapsed with pieces still on the floor.
- Directly above the gallery is a set of star markers that is incredibly exact in positioning and magnitude that was dated to be 2,5000 BC. In fact, such was precision and access to the best software, the academics from Sydney University who verified this stone chart, gave a day, month and time, midnight. To the best of our knowledge, this is the oldest dated star chart, not only in Australia, but the world. That is the good news, the bad news is that two-star markers have been gouged and removed and a huge section of the platform attacked and smashed by a mattock.
- The largest engraved star chart in Australia. We have, over two incredibly hot days in mid-summer, charted 390 of around 800 engraved circular star markers found on two adjoining rock platforms. It also contains a massive, possibly life-sized engraved whale.
- A large engraved Biaime’s footprint.
- An extremely powerful and very much still operating women’s resting/meditation table/healing, with a three ringed men’s meditation platform nearby.
- Gallery Number 2 Bambara. There are two panels, one with four glyphs presenting the credentials of an Egyptian of royalty interred very close by, the second panel of twelve glyphs refers to the coffin, distance, direction, a “back shaft” (of which there is a ten metre underground shaft that almost butts up to panel one in Gallery 1) and a funeral staff that can only be held after death by the Pharaoh, or one of his sons. These engravings are nothing like the ones in the bigger gallery. They are smaller, shallower, nowhere near as sharp at the edges and a long way from the other three hundred engravings. The importance of this second location is that in all the rebuttals offering other unnamed culprits, all the action, and all the chisel work and mischief occurs at Gallery 1 alone. There are no add-ons, it has always been one prank at one place, not all over and lots of places.
- The collective of dozens of rock panels, platforms and inclines that have engraved star markers. Yes, one function is that that mark out a star, that often will have a story, but this constant dedication to the tenet of as on top so below is also part of a deeper spiritual and cosmic connection. Darkinooong Elder, Aunty Beve, told me that when a boy is initiated into the adult-world he is given one of these star markers, and that constellation or sun becomes part of his Dreaming. As such, much care must be taken when just walking anywhere when unaware. Walking directly upon the engraving itself is disrespectful, and alas, almost one hundred per cent guaranteed if hundreds of new neighbours move in and want to stretch their legs and go for a walk.
- This huge engraving of a kangaroo is not only an extremely fine piece of rock-art, it may well be situated not just outside, but just inside the parcel of land they propose to develop.
- Returning to Gallery 2, in fact just above the larger panel, by no more than twenty centimetres, is a hole. Not just any hole, it has a round elliptical entrance of about five by three centimetres, but it is the depth that is so amazing and utterly artificial in construct. I have taken the stem of surrounding bracken ferns and inserted it in at least fifty centimetres and it is obvious there is more. It goes back so far, is not caused by water or wind, nor is it due a structural cracking or chemical reactions. The hole was drilled, the fact that it sits just above this engraved obituary is surely not coincidental.
- The “back shaft”(1) memoralised at Gallery 2, is a magnificent construction of two parallel walls running over ten metres towards panels two and three at Gallery 1. Even the authorities have recently conceded they were in error in declaring it a natural phenomena and now agree it was made by humans, not by ancient hands, but those of mischievous ‘vandals.’ No names, motives and witnesses are cited, just a group of idle hands reluctant to tag or leave a brand, but more than willing to clean up and remove the tonnes of sandstone and rubble that had to be extracted while engaged in this unpaid activity.
All ten of these locations are within one thousand metres of a line in the map, none are protected, cared for or legislated at the moment, and the only approved action is to flood the area with more unsupervised humans and look the other way. But the potential damage to culture, lore and spirits doesn’t end there. What if those new residents were inclined to wander just a bit further from home-base and bitumen roads, are there other historical gems just a little further out, that may also be subject to theft, graffiti and the degree of vandalism that the experts insist took place in the making of the ten metre shaft? If trespassers/vandals made the shaft unseen and undetected, as they claim, are there other magnificent sites now exposed to the same blades and shovels? The answer is absolutely yes and next up, a sampling of five sites, all within two kilometres and all officially ignored and totally unprotected by even a token fence, printed warning or explanation of its significance.
The Magnificent Five
Any one of the next five is a national and international treasure of immense consequence, once this development is approved they will be reduced to the level of a quirky photographic backdrop to selfie or perhaps a picnic spot with a nice depression to dump rubbish unseen. It is their call, as none of the five have the expert’s tick so help yourself. Knowing that its legal to blow sites dated at 46,000 years, anything goes here.
- Klaus’ Walls is a massive sandstone structure that in total weighs hundreds of tonnes of sandstone walls and a slab roof. There are three sandstone block walls, two measuring 293 and 292 cms in height and consists of four stacks of sandstone rectangular blocks some weighing tonnes. The joins and shape are so precise you could not slide a twig between each rock. Patently not natural and built on the side of a very steep slope, such a venture would be extremely trying to construct today. This complex is ancient, and as expected, officially of no consequence
- There is no monument that comes close to what was painted on the walls of the Cave of the Golden Boomerang, The only thing that is a close match is a much more recent copy of the ochre subject matter on the sandstone walls, which was then painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The figures are life-size, and what is extremely rare in this country, everything is exactly representational. The male and female figure are different by hip shape, hair style, and every muscle is shown. It is a first creation Dreaming story and has at the beginning a symbol that depicts the Pleiades, the panel is concluded with a male reaching towards, but never quite touching, a golden boomerang. The cave face is about forty metres in length and as there is a painting of a Tasmanian Devil, a minimum date of at least 6,000 years is applicable. Again unregistered, never treated or drip-lined nor fenced, with the barriers down and unfettered access allowed, eventually someone will stumble upon this treasure. Then what?
- I was taken to this site once by ex-Senior Park Ranger (John Gallard) of this area. I was more than stunned to see two figures that were definitely portrayed as the Lightning Brothers. This is, I thought, exclusively a story and ceremony performed in Northern Territory, and so too all engraved and painted Lightning Brother iconography belongs only there. Yet here the two brothers stood, well lay engraved flat on a rock platform is a more correct description. I have tried three times since to return to that site, and just can’t find it. So frustrating, but I thought if I can’t find it, at least it is safe. But with permanent numbers multiplying by so much, somebody may take a slightly different path to the one I took and come upon something so precious, and dare I say it, valuable. What next?
- At Aunty Beve’s prompting, which all assembled at the time agreed to, it was decided no mention of this site would be made and the photographs and film taken by Sean would never be shown. That compact could only be overridden if the site was being registered by UNESCO as an international site, that is at present all I can say in relation to what Aunty Beve insists is the most important women’s site on her tribal land, well actually she went much further including the entire continent. So sacred, precious and spirit-protected is this site, she was surprised that myself, and two other males, returned upright and breathing. All I can say is that no male should ever be near this site, touch it and you will die, you must keep away. But alas, I am bound by women’s protocol never to show, describe or provide where. The best solution is simple, either cancel or make the appropriate additions to the present development before people stumble upon places they should never see, be near or walk upon.
- The UFO site, overlooks the still waters of Bambara, where according to Aunty Beve a UFO mother-ship crashed in ancient times. There is a massive engraving occupying over nine square metres on a rock platform, this domed engraving resembles the same five-legged UFO’s witnessed by thousands in the 1990’s at the same location. There are five-legged figures at Gallery 1 which the public refer to as the UFO glyphs, that are almost identical to this much bigger engraving. In fact, the largest such engraving found between the walls has many mathematical ratios that are also shared by the larger engraving.
Sacred Sites Ticked off, on to Sacred Objects
The stock-take is not complete, our present tally is of fifteen is four short of an intended target of nineteen. There are two artefacts, one human bone and a piece of metal jewellery that deserve mention. Three were found very close to or between the walls of Gallery 1, and the last piece of archaeology is the most problematic in consequences and indicator of the huge scope of cultural and historical damage already caused by the housing and associated environmental destruction that has already taken place.
One of the very first people to understand the breadth of importance and sacredness of Gallery 1 was Ray Johnson, who along with Dr. Abu Dhia Gazi, compiled the first dictionary of over four thousand glyphs that make up the first form of Egyptian hieroglyphs (Proto-Egyptian Hieroglyphs). He often went to this site with the highly respected Original Elder, Aunty Minnie Mace, who kindly gave me a copy of his manual containing the entire four thousand odd glyphs to assist us in trying to decode what the three panels, plus the two others we found later, meant in one complete reading.
It made such an incredible difference, but that wasn’t all Aunty Minnie gave us, she was defiant, even when we first objected, that both items found at the first Gallery by her when she first went there, were needed by us. The metal jewellery was for my protection, as for what she believed to be a very ancient bone, possibly the femur of one of the two sons of Khufu who were marooned at Gosford and soon after one died after being bitten twice by a snake, I accepted it simply because she insisted. According to the stone report on the walls, the most likely owner was Nefer-Ti-Ru. Aunty Minnie was very confident both gifts belong to the Egyptian son of the Pharaoh Khufu.
It turns out she was between half to three quarters right. The bone has been examined by the Head of the Fractures Unit of the local Base Hospital and also by the Cat-Scan Unit at his recommendation, and their combined findings was that the bone is “ancient,”(2) has “the same density as a human bone”(3) and was a portion of the “femur bone.”(4) So, the bone most likely belongs to who Aunty Minnie claimed, because of this, since they were found together, it would seem very likely the metal object goes together thus confirming Aunty Minnie’s Egyptian prediction.
But an analysis by the top laboratory in the country at Southern Cross University handed me a chemistry read out that is very modern in presentation, non-Earthly in composition and incredibly ancient in technique. It is such a bizarre hybrid that has no parallel or precedent. The two enigmatic anomalies are that firstly 24% of the content is still unknown as it does not match all present entries on the periodic table. The scientists involved have made mentioned of this vacuum in metallic comparisons to me then, and many times since.
The read out is 73% Aluminium, 3% Copper and 24% …. What comes out of this alloy is something far harder and stronger than any Aluminium mixture ever found on this planet. And then there is the issue of the 3% Copper, which naturally is very reactive when in the presence of Aluminium, so involves a difficult process. The trick is all Aluminium alloys of recent times that contain Copper are of the 10-12% range, go right back, thousands of years when technology was still in its ‘infancy,’ that is when the copper content was much lower, in the 2-4% range. That means the 3% Copper reading recorded for this artefact, along with its general ware and damage strongly indicates this one unique piece of jewellery found in the dirt in Australia is thousands of years old.
However, Aluminium was never smelted in ancient times in Egypt, there is no bauxite deposit in that country, nor are there any relics or remains of that metal. But then again, when it comes to one quarter of this alloy there is nowhere else anywhere on this planet that can compare. So, if there is nowhere down here to compare against, maybe it is time to look up there?
The third artefact found very close to the three engraved walls was not found by Aunty Minnie, but literally ‘detected’ by D.D. Certainly without our knowledge or prompting, this gentleman used a metal detector in locating very close to the hieroglyphs an unusual metal section of something larger, but within there is a crystal inset embedded into the metal on every side. Such a very advanced combination and setting found out in the scrub so far from today’s trappings and developments seems a touch odd, at the least. But when it comes to circumstances of retrieval of a rock the Smithsonian Institute regard as “unique”(5) and very collectable, which was recovered at a site less than two kilometres from the proposed development, new factors leading up in this totally ‘unseen’ placement and retrieval have to be factored into any future sympathetic development proposals.
The Rock ‘That Broke the Camel’s Back’
In our opinion Ros’ Rock 1 is the most important rock ever found, not just In Australia, but the world. The continuous lines running across three sides were cut, not chiselled. A mottled brown coat of melted chert and resin was first laid on top of a lighter base rock with lines cut with mathematical intent. The angles, intersection points, length and width of line are by design and is what we believe to be the script of the First Language.
Dr. Derek Cunningham did a complete analysis in measuring the angle of each line to two decimal points, this is his global specialty. Once measured, we compared the angular readings against twenty-three angles he charted on an ancient rock from Calgary (Canada), of which twenty-one matched angles found on Ros’ Rock 1. Not long after Dr. Semir contacted us in regards to a rock he found in a tunnel under the massive Bosnian pyramid he is studying, which had fifteen angles. Dr. Derek measured these angles, only this time there was nothing on this rock that wasn’t also marked out at the same angle of the Australian rock. If more confirmation was needed, which it wasn’t, we found that a German rock also analysed by Dr. Derek some time earlier has ten angles that are all found on Ros’ Rock 1.
Beyond this cross-continental replication of precise mathematics of which this stone is the central point, there are deep indentations, infilling of exotic material in two locations, four different widths of line and it is obvious this rock was extensively shaped. The technology needed to create this fascinating stone testimonial is well beyond the supposed capacity of all Original stick, stone and bone tool kits. The Smithsonian knew that from first glance, as would anyone who cared to personally inspect, that this rock contradicts so much assumed about pre-Cook Australian technology.
Casting aside how, when and the advanced technology used, what is of utmost importance in this discussion is where. Where this rock was found is of seminal importance, simply because it was excavated from a depth of one and a half metres at a residential block at Kariong. That depth means this rock is close to a minimum of ten-thousand years old, and it also means that where there is one artefact of that immense significance, there could be more nearby, above or below. And everywhere else in the immediate area, and since this site is also within the outer two-kilometre radius from the proposed development, the recurring issue of protection, thorough archaeology and supervision of the entire area is still paramount and alas, at this stage not addressed.
Flora and Fauna
There are people who have spent some time researching and understanding the intricacies of the flora and fauna of this area that need to be consulted, who best appreciate how special this particular site in so many ecological ways. Nature has to be fully protected and planned for in any revised development proposal. However, such information and understanding is the province of others and not us, but it has to be factored in and, at the least, mentioned in passing.
What Comes Next
Knowing every sacred site in this country has no legal status is the focus of each of our last three reports. That is a dreadful state of disrepair and must be fixed, there is talk that Rio’s internal investigation, which originally was never to be made public, has been altered slightly in intending to release acceptable news-bites being drip-fed to selected media outlets sometime after October, then back to business.
But when it comes to the Lands Council’s development proposal, they still have a choice here. They could reconsider and take measures that can effectively protect, supervise and foster employment, and still provide housing for Original and non-Original residents. Rio had a chance to cater for sacred sites when the PKKP pleaded with them to stop, we are doing the same in asking the Lands Council to pause and consider the needs and credentials of fifteen sites, four artefacts and the flora and fauna, all found within two kilometres of the line on the map.
The solution is quite cheap in the short term, very profitable in the mid-term and entirely do-able right now. It all begins with an office/museum/training centre at this development where paid guides could escort on to country catering for the Original, botanical, geological and faunal features of the surrounding land. So too, there must be someone familiar with this area whose role would be to look after the non-Original gifts of this country, and also to keep a close eye on the current centre of vandalism, Gallery 1. If so many more people are going to frequent this area, then the idea we have someone performing a role akin to a ranger, with a focus on being pro-active protection and always in the proximity is essential and very preventative.
The Original issues and paid guided culture tours should fall under the jurisdiction of the current appointed Cultural Officer, who should oversee the day to day activities and employment of mainly local Original guides (but not excluding either non-local or non-Original applicants, of which at least one must come from that cohort in the first crew). There should be ample signage explain the absolute cultural offense for anyone who goes on site unless checking in first to book or ring in advance, and advertisements in media outlets to reinforce the way things will have to be. We believe after funding the start-up costing and wages, the years that follow need no further financial support as this venture will be extremely profitable.
A suggestion that may infuse the people who do buy and move in with a healthy reverence and respect for the sacred land they are so lucky to live beside, is to set up something like what happens at Bondi Beach when the crowds come. They have professional lifesavers who are assisted by volunteers. Why not the same here? There could be a community organisation, limited solely to those in the estate, that assists the carers and guides in labour, repair and other relevant activities (e.g. litter, track maintenance, trees down, restoration, erosion damage, vandalism, re-vegetation, weeding etc.).
The only part of this current proposal I have any right to speak about relates to sacred sites, artefacts and rituals, the rest is none of my business. Our concern is for Original history, culture, Lore, plants, animals and the delicate environment. If that is protected then Aunty Beve’s Guardian Spirit will be pleased, if it isn’t respected then more needs to be said and done.
“The Broader Cultural Landscape”(6)
The final word on this development is certainly not ours to give, but we do feel what the Chief Executive Officer of the Jerrinja Lands Council, said in respect to a resort catering for a maximum of seventy odd people is of relevance here. It was not only the number of people catered for at both developments being almost the same, but something far more important than money or people was under threat at both locations. C.E.O. Alfred Werrington voiced only one concern which related to the sacred sites, ley lines and an assortment of locations of great significance. None are positioned at the actual site, but can be found in what he regards as the immediate area. According to Original sensibilities and Alfred, the major unsatisfied imperative was that the proposed resort was “close to many known (Aboriginal Heritage) sites in both Huskinsson and Vincentia and cannot be viewed in isolation from the broader cultural landscape.”(7)
Those last three words, “broader cultural landscape”(8) sum up exactly why this development at Kariong is presently flawed. Huskisson is about two kilometres from the proposed resort, Vincentia more like ten kilometres from this site, while at Kariong the distances are much closer, with one crucial difference. At Kariong protection of “the cultural landscape”(9) where nothing is “viewed in isolation”(10) is simply a twenty-minute rewrite away, and after that masterstroke of common sense in black ink, the Original contract is sealed and delivered. And just as important, Aunty Beve will be smiling again.
(1) Raymond Johnson and Edith May Rumbel, Basic Hieroglypica (1997).
(2)-(4) Base Hopsital – Catscan Unit, 2011. Personal Communication.
(5) Academic (name withheld), 2013. Personal Communication to Steven Strong.
(6) – (10) Megan Carey, (Urban Affairs reporter )June 22md 2020. News,“Residents fear ‘Gold Coast style’ waterside Hotel Plan”, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Fairfax Media Pty Ltd: Pyrmont): 8(n).