Mount Drysdale Station



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SpeakersBlack Mr Peter; Carr Mr Bob
BusinessQuestions Without Notice


    MOUNT DRYSDALE STATION
Page: 14893

    Mr BLACK: My question without notice is to the Premier. What is the latest information on initiatives to promote partnerships between graziers and Aboriginal communities in the Western Division?

    Mr CARR: I am pleased to inform the House about a landmark act of reconciliation in western New South Wales, which involves farmers and Aboriginal people in a remarkable act that has great symbolic and practical meaning for the State and for the local people and is another measure of our progress in working together towards real and thoroughgoing reconciliation. About 30 kilometres north of Cobar is an area of immense spiritual and cultural importance to the Ngemba and Ngiyaampa Aboriginal people. This country contains a story of Biaime, an ancestor figure who occupies a central place in the creation stories of local Aboriginal people. It is also a property called Mount Drysdale, which runs horses, goats, cattle and sheep.

    Shirley Mitchell lives on the property with her husband, Michael. She is a descendant of families who came to the area in the 1880s. The station has been in the same family for more than a century. It is rich in history, ancient and modern, indigenous and non-indigenous. The entire property is listed by the National Trust to preserve its Aboriginal and European heritage. Today I am pleased to inform the House that 500 hectares of Mount Drysdale station has been declared an "Aboriginal place". This ensures protection not only for hundreds of Aboriginal artefacts but for the entire landscape.

    Under Section 90 of the National Parks Act, the area cannot be disturbed without the consent of the Director-General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It means that a piece of our shared history is now preserved for the benefit of current and future generations. How did this come about? It was not the result of conflict or argument. It was, remarkably, a shared endeavour, a partnership between graziers and Aborigines. Shirley Mitchell describes how her grandmother grew up with local Ngemba children, playing in the bush and swimming in waterholes with them. Shirley says:
        When I was a very small child my grandmother would walk us for hours over the property and through the ranges, but she never allowed us to go to Mount Billigoe because Biaime, she said, had rested there.
    This was a white European woman talking to her grandchild. Shirley did not go to the sacred Aboriginal place. Even back in those times, she respected it. Shirley went on to say:
        Aboriginal people were welcome to come and go as they pleased.
    But the local non-indigenous people held back from trespassing that territory. This Aboriginal community survived grazing and mining and maintained their ties with the area. Their creation stories endured. Phil Sullivan, a sites officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is a descendant of the people who originally occupied the area. He describes how Biaimi left physical signs of his presence in an area extending from the Drysdale Range to the Darling River at Brewarrina. For an area to be declared an "Aboriginal place", there must be a detailed investigation. In the case of Mount Drysdale, the archaeological finds were very significant. They included 32 stone paint palettes for grinding ochre for body painting. There were also 264 fireplaces, two wells, an axe quarry, scar trees and other evidence associated with ceremonial places found on dreaming tracks. There is also oral history of two massacres that occurred on the mountain in the 1880s.

    Until recently the declaration of "Aboriginal places" in New South Wales occurred at the rate of less than one a year. Aboriginal people nominated areas, but their applications gathered dust. As part of our Government's continuing commitment to reconciliation, we have revitalised declarations of Aboriginal places. The backlog is being processed; new nominations are coming in. There have been six declarations in the past two years. They include women's areas, men's ceremonial areas, story sites and a massacre site. Another 12 nominations are being investigated. We expect to double the number of declared Aboriginal places in the space of a few years.

    The Mount Drysdale story symbolises a feature of Australian history. It shows us that our history has many strands, both indigenous and non-indigenous: the fate and survival of a resilient indigenous people and the achievements of the white colonisers after 1788. These different strands in our history live side by side. In total, with their triumph, their achievement, their happiness, their celebration, their sadness and their tragedy, they are the total of Australian story. They are Australian history. Mount Drysdale is a microcosm of what can be achieved with goodwill from all sides, with people representing these different strands coming together and saying this site is significant to us.