Moment Aboriginal locals confront ‘ignorant’ rock climbers as who scaled sacred cliffs covered in ancient artwork and left a trail of chalk
- Rock climbers have been flocking to the sacred site Thompson’s Point, Nowra
- Michael Robinson said the rocks hold cultural significance for the Indigenous
- Traditional owners of the land are now calling for climbing there to be banned
- Climbers were filmed rowing with one man about the damage they were causing
A culturally significant cliff face has become a hot spot for rock climbers, breaking the hearts of Indigenous Australians who have called it home for centuries.
The rocks at Thompson’s Point in Nowra, in New South Wales‘ South Coast, have been flooded with both beginner and skilled climbers over the past 40 years.
Michael Robinson, a Wandi Wandian traditional owner, said the constant climbers were damaging the artwork and history of the rocks.
‘It’s not just a rock, it’s alive. It’s got feelings, you know, it’s got memories,’ Mr Robinson told the SBS.
Michael Robinson (pictured), a Wandi Wandian traditional owner, said the constant climbers were damaging the artwork and history of the rocks
‘This is where I was born, this is where I was raised. Over the years it just gets harder and harder to come here because of what’s going on and all the traffic.’
The local frequently visits the caves and rocks, teaching others about Indigenous culture and carrying out ceremonies.
The rocks at Nowra now house around 1,500 climbing routes with more and more visitors flocking in each day.
During one visit to Thompson’s Point, Mr Robinson confronted a group of climbers scaling the cliff using steel loops built into the rocks.
‘Do you guys know that you are climbing in a significant, cultural and sacred area for Aboriginal people of this area?’ he asked the climbers.
Mr Robinson confronted two tourists (pictured) climbing at the area and asked if they knew the site was so culturally significant
Over the past 40 years dozens of climbers have flocked to Nowra which has more than 1,500 climbing routes (pictured)
‘How do you feel brother? Now that I’ve told you that there’s artwork here and you are climbing all over this sacred Aboriginal site from my ancestors?’
While one said it was best for them to start climbing at another area, another member of the group said they weren’t causing any damage to the rocks.
‘I understand that this entire place is cultural heritage but if I can climb on it without abusing or degrading that,’ one of the climbers said.
The climber said she was willing to discuss the issue with Mr Robinson and added the bolts stuck to the cliff had been there for years before.
But Mr Robinson pointed out the chalk they used was defiling the rocks and suggested they should instead visit the climbing centre in town.
A Nowra rock climbing guide book has also angered locals, with many of the tracks having derogatory names such as ‘fat wog’, ‘brother in a body bag’ and ‘trigga n***a’.
The Indigenous local said the rocks were his ‘backyard’ (pictured) and urged climbers to visit the rock climbing centre in town
For Yuin Elders Tom and George Walker Brown, it’s become too much to bear.
‘Oh look, I’d say it’s hurtful just to look at it,’ George said.
‘Cause even just going there and finding that well, it’s actually marked and that’s like messing around with a masterpiece.’
‘It’s like we’re going up to one of the famous cathedrals in Sydney and using that as an opportunity,’ Tom said.
‘That’s their heritage. Don’t do this to ours.’
But those in the climbing community are not willing to say goodbye to one of their favourite tracks.
Rob Crow, has been running Climb Nowra and says if climbers were to be banned from the area, the effects would be detrimental.
A petition has been set up to ban climbers from visiting Thompson’s Point in Nowra (pictured). It’s gained more than 11,000 signatures
‘I think it’s counter-intuitive to support one group in connecting with country and to achieve that we lock early adopters from another culture out of their opportunity to connect with the great outdoors,’ he said.
‘There would be financial impacts immediately from the loss of the individuals who come here.
‘There would be locals who perhaps may consider even moving to a location where their passion was still possible. So we may even lose residents as a consequence of a decision like that.’
A Change.org petition has since been setup demanding climbers be banned from climbing Thompson’s Point.
It’s so far garnered more than 11,000 signatures from furious supporters of the traditional owners.
‘How can “recreation” be considered to be more important that our cultural heritage as Aboriginal people?’, someone commented on the petition.
‘Let them drill holes in and to climb Hyde Park Barracks!’
‘This is a small step in asking for respect for the Indigenous peoples and the history of Australia.. if people cant respect this simple request then the government must find a way to protect it,’ wrote another.
‘We don’t climb and destroy churches and other Christian, Catholic, Islamic etc. buildings now, do we? So why First Nations People holy sites, rocks, caves etc?’ said another.
‘We must protect and respect all heritage sites, and Aboriginal ones are particularly important to preserve. Sport should not over-ride this,’ someone commented.