World’s Finest Rock Art Site is Threatened by Petrochemical Development
But You Can Help to Save it
by Robert G. Bednarik
Reputed to be the world’s largest complex of petroglyphs, the rock art of the Dampier Archipelago in Western Australia is under severe threat of destruction through industrial development. Between 20% and 25% of this corpus has been destroyed since 1964, and the remainder has been subjected to slow deterioration through acid rain caused by industrial installations immediately adjacent to the rock art.
It now faces the establishment of a huge petrochemical complex and escalating acidification of the atmospheric environment. Toxic and greenhouse gas emissions will be trebled, and a scientific study has shown that most of the rock art will disappear in the course of the 21st century. The Western Australian government, which is responsible for the preservation of this huge cultural monument, has completely failed in its duty.
There is no management plan for the area, no inventory of the rock art, which numbers hundreds of thousands of images, and there is no protection of this irreplaceable monument of the oldest living culture on this planet.
This panel of petroglyphs is one of thousands to be destroyed by entirely unnecessary state vandalism. Photo by Robert Bednarik.
The traditional owners of this rock art, the local Aboriginal people, had been given no control over their cultural property until 2003. They have been joined by conservationists, by the local population, by all political parties except the one in power, and even by some of the companies involved in the planned expansion, to have the new industrial development relocated to an industrial estate, the nearby Maitland Estate on the mainland, away from the rock art. The government agrees that it will develop Maitland once the Dampier Archipelago runs out of land suitable for industry, but it is unwilling to make the move now.
The International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO) and its Australian member, the Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA), have established an internet petition asking the Western Australian government to reconsider its policy, to relocate the planned petrochemical plant to Maitland, and to take responsibility for protecting the rock art monument.
Please visit the petition site, read the introductory text, and then proceed to the petition to sign it – if you feel that this appeal deserves your support. Thank you.
Robert G. Bednarik is the Chairman of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations.