Gaanha-bula/Mt Canobolas must be protected: Aboriginal Cultural Heritage an election priority say Greens


Greens NSW Upper House candidate and Wiradjuri and Badu Island woman Lynda-June Coe has today called for Gaanha-bula/Mt Canobolas to be protected under a Greens proposal for new laws that will protect Aboriginal cultural heritage in NSW. In a press conference with Wiradjuri Elders Uncle Neil Ingram snr and Aunty Alice Williams and Greens candidates for Orange and Bathurst David Mallard and Kay Nankervis, Ms Coe called for legislative reforms that give decision making powers back to communities and cultural knowledge holders. 

Gaanha-bula/Mt Canobolas is presently subject to a proposal for a 100km mountain bike track network that is set to irreversibly damage and desecrate sacred Wiradjuri sites on the mountain. Wiradjuri Elders are calling for the site to be given permanent protection and to be given the power to make decisions over whether development can go ahead at the site. 

NSW is the only jurisdiction in Australia without stand alone First Nations cultural heritage laws and the current system facilitates the desecration and destruction of Aboriginal cultural heritage and is considered to cause ongoing harm and trauma to First Nations people across NSW. 

The Greens will introduce laws that achieve self determination for First Nations people over their cultural heritage and give recognition to Aboriginal cultural heritage as part of a living culture that is afforded protection from inappropriate development by private and government projects. 

Greens Upper House candidate Lynda-June Coe said:

“As it stands the current NSW Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Laws are failing First Nations people across the state. The measures in place do not protect our sacred sites, histories and the stories that are written in the land.”

“The Greens are committed to strengthening our right to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage through a self-determined and First Nations-led legislative reform to ensure the desecration and destruction of significant sites is no longer common Government practice.” Ms Coe said.   

Greens spokesperson for First Nations heritage and chair of the Upper House Inquiry in Culture is Identity Bill 2022 Sue Higginson said: 

“The present framework for Aboriginal cultural heritage is completely inadequate, it’s harmful and is not in keeping with community standards and expectations. Currently mining corporations are given control over cultural heritage and can destroy the cultural significance of a site and Aboriginal people do not have control or decision making powers over their own cultural heritage. The reality is that what happened at Juuken Gorge in WA could happen here in NSW without better protections. 

“It is high time NSW puts the decision making power back to communities so they can determine how sites are managed and protected. 

“There is a huge opportunity in Orange for Gaanha-bula to become a celebrated destination for tourism and storytelling - but the cultural knowledge holders need to be empowered to make those decisions.” Ms Higginson said.  

Greens candidate for Orange David Mallard said:

“The proposed mountain bike trails on Gaanha-bula highlight the problems with our current cultural heritage laws. The proponents, in this case Orange City Council, are in the driver’s seat, while the First Nations people who are traditional custodians and knowledge holders of such significant sites are subject to ‘consultation’ which all too often falls short of seeking to genuinely understand and accommodate their views.

“I’m proud to stand with Lynda-June and Wiradjuri Elders to set out our plans for a new framework of laws that put the First Nations people whose sovereignty was never ceded at the centre of decisions that would have impacts on Aboriginal cultural heritage. This approach would create the opportunity to ensure places like Gaanha-bula can be protected, shared and enjoyed in ways that respect and celebrate their full and true history.” Mr Mallard said. 

Greens candidate for Bathurst Kay Nankervis said: 

“It is well overdue for NSW legislation to fully protect intangible and tangible First Nations heritage and to acknowledge the cultural authority of traditional owners to determine what happens to significant sites and cultural property. 

"As a non-Aboriginal Greens candidate I stand with the Wahluu/Bathurst, Gaanha-bula/Orange and Mingaan/Lithgow Wiradjuri communities as they strive to protect from inappropriate development the cultural value of those places also known as Mt Panorama, Mt Canobolas and Little Hartley & the Gardens of Stone.“ Ms Nankervis said. 

The detailed policy can be viewed here. 

Photos available upon request via reply email

For media enquiries please contact:

Lynda-June Coe, Greens NSW Upper House Candidate - Madeleine Hayman-Reber 0404 935 157

Tony Mackenzie, Greens Orange Campaign Manager -0432 881 448 /Stephen Nugent, Greens Bathurst Campaign Manager - 0429 655 739

Sue Higginson Greens NSW Spokesperson for First Nations Heritage and Chair of PC 7 Upper House Inquiry into Culture is Identity Bill 2022 - 0428 227 363