El­der’s grave con­cerns

North Coast Weekender - - Front Page - Lucy Jarvis

AN Abo­rig­i­nal El­der has called for greater recog­ni­tion and pro­tec­tion of burial sites in Yanchep Na­tional Park.

A sign has re­cently been in­stalled near Yon­derup Cave ad­vis­ing it is an Abo­rig­i­nal site and any­one who al­ters the site would be com­mit­ting an of­fence un­der the Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Act.

Abo­rig­i­nal Yanchep eco-ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer Trevor Wal­ley said there were Abo­rig­i­nal burial sites through­out the area but they had been dis­turbed.

“There are no signs to say this is a burial site. People should know about that his­tory,” Mr Wal­ley said.

“People are camp­ing on top of burial sites. In Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture, that’s ba­si­cally our ceme­tery. The Abo­rig­i­nal Elders are re­ally shocked be­cause it’s been hid­den from people.”

A Depart­ment of Plan­ning, Lands and Her­itage spokesman said staff were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the claims re­gard­ing Yon­derup Cave.

Doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Week­ender said there were two col­lec­tions of hu­man skele­tal ma­te­rial from Yon­derup Cave, one in 1939 and an­other in 1984.

One of the doc­u­ments said Abo­rig­i­nal skele­tal ma­te­rial had been on dis­play in the cave since the early 1930s.

It said in 1984 the Ny­oon­gah Abo­rig­i­nal Com­mu­nity asked the na­tional parks au­thor­ity to re­move the re­mains and WA Mu­seum to in­ves­ti­gate their sig­nif­i­cance.

“The Abo­rig­i­nal people didn’t put those bones down there,” Mr Wal­ley said.

“The cave is our jour­ney to our next dream­ing – people are buried near the caves.

“Abo­rig­i­nal people wouldn’t go into the caves be­cause the spir­i­tual people are in there.

“I think there was a bit of skul­dug­gery go­ing on. People have col­lected those skele­tons and thrown them down Yon­derup Cave.”

Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions (DBCA) Swan Coastal Dis­trict man­ager Mark Cu­g­ley said the depart­ment was not aware of any con­firmed Abo­rig­i­nal burial sites within Yanchep Na­tional Park.

“Any bones that were found at Yon­derup Cave are now housed at the WA Mu­seum,” he said.

“There are dif­fer­ent views re­gard­ing the ori­gin of the bones that were found in the cave and how they came to be there.”

Mr Cu­g­ley said the depart­ment ac­knowl­edged and re­spected Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture.

“There is a sign at Yon­derup Cave iden­ti­fy­ing one of the blocked-off cham­bers as an Abo­rig­i­nal pro­tected area,” he said.

“DBCA will con­tinue to be guided by the Depart­ment of Plan­ning, Lands and Her­itage to en­sure this Abo­rig­i­nal pro­tected area and other sites of sig­nif­i­cance within the Yanchep Na­tional Park are ap­pro­pri­ately ac­knowl­edged and pro­tected.”

Yon­derup Cave is a pro­tected Abo­rig­i­nal site.

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