MAC considers Burrup World Heritage listing

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Rock art on the Burrup Peninsula.
Camera IconRock art on the Burrup Peninsula. Credit: WA News, Nic Ellis

The overarching traditional owners’ group of the Burrup Peninsula has begun an internal consultation to determine whether its members will formally support adding the site to the World Heritage List, with elders having already voted in favour.

The Burrup has long been the subject of a campaign for World Heritage listing to ensure its vast gallery of ancient Aboriginal rock art carvings is properly recognised and protected but has been hindered by several obstacles, including a lack of consensus among its traditional owners.

In the past few months, however, Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation’s circle of elders has given its approval for the group to back World Heritage listing and has also received support from the board.

No final position has been reached, with the corporation’s members still needing to endorse the idea. Members are expected to have their say at the MAC AGM to be held later this month.

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Acting MAC chief executive Peter Jeffries said the group felt it was time for members to give the issue in-depth consideration.

“There’s been some concern from our members about what exactly does World Heritage listing give us in regards to protection,” he said. “We want to go to the community because we need to do an investigation around the pros and cons, and then we’ll decide from there.”

The news comes after a Senate standing committee conducted an inquiry into levels of protection against industrial emissions for the Burrup’s rock art.

While committee members failed to reach a consensus in their report, handed down last month, the Greens and Labor recommended that the Burrup should be added to the Australian Tentative World Heritage List and nominated for World Heritage listing, subject to approval from MAC.

“A number of stakeholders emphasised the need to conduct a comprehensive consultation with local indigenous custodians on the World Heritage process, and that any World Heritage nomination must be led by traditional owners,” the report read.

Similarly, in August then-acting Environment Minister David Templeman said any State Government submission for World Heritage listing of the Burrup would need formal approval from MAC.

“Once it does, the State Government will be in a position to progress the nomination to the Commonwealth Government,” he said. The City of Karratha and a handful of major resource companies operating on the Burrup have previously stated they would support MAC’s position on World Heritage listing for the peninsula.

Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation represents the five traditional owner groups of the Burrup — the Ngarluma, Yaburara, Yindjibarndi, Mardudhunera and Wong-Goo-Tt-Oo people.

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