Wiradyuri community fights desecration of sacred land

Community ceremony at Sullman Park (Wahluu) last year. Photo: Yanhadarrambal

Wahluu/Mount Panorama in Bathurst is sacred Aboriginal land, with areas still used for initiation, healing and community organising. But Bathurst Council wants to build a huge go-kart race track and a second circuit to accompany the Bathurst 1000 motor racing track.

On top of Wahluu lies the quiet, regal McPhillamy Park — Wiradyuri women’s land — with its box-gum grassy woodlands, a children’s playground, roaming kangaroos, sacred artefacts and a run-down caretaker’s cottage. Its summit boasts spectacular views of Bathurst, the Central West and the race track.

Before the drought, a river flowed down the mountain at the back of McPhillamy Park. Leannah, a Wiradyuri elder told Green Left Weekly these were “sacred springs” which linked to areas where only women were allowed.

“There is an area there where women handed over the young boys to the law men and the warriors.”

It is on this sacred land that Bathurst Council plans to build its “world class” go-kart track which would be open all day, seven days a week.  

Wiradyuri elder Yanhadarrambal said that the council is also moving ahead with plans for a second circuit on the main race track that, if it goes ahead, “will dig into culturally significant areas”.

There is significant opposition to the council’s go-kart proposal, first raised in 2015. Leannah explained that since then the community has been organising to “bombard council with thousands of letters opposing the go-kart track in McPhillamy Park”.

Bathurst Council only gave the final green light to the Bathurst Kart Club last December. Greens councillor John Fry and independent Monica Morse voted against the proposal.

On March 18, council started its test excavating for the second circuit track.

Yanhadarrambal said the test excavation, or “archaeological test pitting” involved digging 200 pits to determine the extent of the Aboriginal cultural heritage in the area. 

“We already know they are potentially disturbing scar trees and archaeologically significant sites”, Yanhadarrambal said. “It is on the same song line as the go-kart track proposal and an area of intangible cultural value.

“The council purports to be excavating for ‘Aboriginal heritage information’, but the test excavation is digging it up.

“Wiradyuri elders have been locked out of looking over the excavation,” said Yanhadarrambal.

Wiradyuri elders are investigating a legal challenge against the second circuit excavations and continuing their campaign against the go-kart track proposal.

Wiradyuri leader Dinawan Dyirribang Muurai (Old Man Emu) explained the devastating impact the second circuit and go-kart track would have on cultural heritage to the Western Advocate News last December.

He said: “Percy Gresser in 1928, before they build the road going around there, recorded artefacts on top of that mountain; 2000 of them are in the Australian Museum in Sydney.”  

From 1822, Wiradyuri resistance leader Windradyne fought off the invading colonial armies with such persistence that the governing forces were forced to declare martial war. The battle against Windradyne and his alliance became known as the Bathurst War.

Windradyne survived the war with the support of the Wiradyuri community and allies among some farming families.

Windradyne’s warrior spirit is alive in the Wirudyuri people.

First Nations elders are asking for solidarity to help them oppose the desecration of Aboriginal cultural heritage.

[To send them messages and for more information visit their FB page.]

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