MEDIA REPORT | Local Aboriginal community not consulted on bike trails

Highly weathered columnar formation. Photo by Dr Richard Medd

The local Orange Aboriginal community say they haven’t been consulted about the proposed bike trails on Mt Canobolas, which is a sacred site, housing many Indigenous cultural artefacts.

Neil and Gregory Ingram from the Orange Aboriginal community said the Orange City Council hasn’t asked them about their concerns for the project.

The Ingrams said they have requested a meeting with the Council, but are waiting on an invitation.

“We would like to see Council hold a consultation process where Aboriginal people can come and put their concerns forward. That hasn’t happened yet,” Mr Ingram said.

“There are issues surrounding the mountain that are relevant to Aboriginal people that the wider community might not understand or be aware of.”

Environmental and archaeological consultants working with the Council have mapped trails and sensitive localisations on Mt Canobolas and are currently walking the trails to check their suitability.

According to Counci, they worked with exterior Registered Aboriginal Parties when they conducted an archaeological assessment of the mountain, but Mr Ingram said that’s not a representation of the Aboriginal community in Orange.

Mr Ingram said he is currently against the bike trails.

“There’s such a high percentage of Aboriginal cultural heritage up on the mountain, and the tracks have a great potential of destroying the cultural artefacts that are up there.”

The cultural artefacts and sites have a high spiritual importance for the local Aboriginal community.

Mt Canobolos, or Gaarnabulla, is the site of the creation of Orange in the Dreaming stories.

It was traditionally an initiation site for young men, with rock engravings, rock axes and other artefacts scattered across the mountain.

Mr Ingram said the local Aboriginal community is under a cultural obligation to protect and preserve these sites.

“From a Wiradjuri perspective, we are always trying to protect our cultural sites. The moment we expose a sacred site, people go up there and try to destroy it.”

“We know it’s important to encourage all Australians to learn more about our cultural heritage, so we can walk down that path together, but there’s also an obligation to protect sacred sites.”

“If damage is done to these sites, it’s irreversible.”

This article by L. Arundell was published in The Orange App on 19 July 2021.