I was without power and all phone lines were down due to storms when this was made public knowledge so I vented then through Twitter, but I can now more fully express my personal outrage at the destruction of Juukan Gorge.
For many years I have been trying to draw attention to the destruction of sites of cultural and scientific interest in the Kimberleys and Pilbara regions of northwest WA. I published my novel, “Katajarri – Murder by the Board”, partly for that reason, in that instance involving stromatolites, the fossils of some of the oldest life-forms on Earth..
There are many sites of significance in the northwest which are in potential danger due to an inadequate environmental impact assessment process, which not only fails to recognise sites of significance but dismisses them in a streamlined process designed to disregard them. Consultation is practically non-existent and as locals, scientists and researchers note, there is much that is unknown, unresearched and uncatalogued, making the danger of destruction higher.
It is very important that people with local knowledge, researchers and those in the know make the significance of the northwest generally known. At times it has been necessary to keep sites secret to preserve them but as is becoming increasingly evident, while taking appropriate precautions, it is essential that the general public knows that there is much more to the northwest than red dirt and spinifex.
Mining is an important industry – the Australian economy would practically collapse without it, but it must take place within appropriate contexts. The benefits of preservation, whether for pure purposes or perhaps commercial gain from tourism, far outweigh the costs, which to the mining industry are minimal. It’s frustrating that near to ideal practice is achievable but that vested interests and general ineptitude is resulting in mediocrity. To quote the old concept, we have a chance at greatness. We can set a standard for cultural and scientific recognition in hand with economic gain and be recorded as those who helped preserve history, rather than as those who blew it up.