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Home Tourist Attraction Major development for Mount Warning hikers after climbing the popular tourist attraction was banned because of its significance to the local Indigenous community

Major development for Mount Warning hikers after climbing the popular tourist attraction was banned because of its significance to the local Indigenous community

by Staff

A New South Wales MP is seeking to overturn a ban on climbing a popular mountain, saying that claims it is a sacred site are the ‘hocus pocus’ inventions of ‘left-wing extremists’ to create racial division.

Mount Warning (known as Wollumbin by Indigenous people) near Murwillumbah in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, once welcomed more than 120,000 visitors every year, but it has been off limits since 2020 despite an argument between Indigenous elders about its cultural significance.

NSW Upper House Libertarian Party MP John Ruddick has launched a petition to reopen the mountain to the public and requires 10,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Mount Warning, near Murwillumbah in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, has been off limits to the general public since 2020

Mr Ruddick claims there is a lack of evidence the mountain has any religious significance to the local Indigenous people.

‘I don’t believe it is the Aboriginal version of Jerusalem or Mecca or St Peters,’ he told Daily Mail Australia on Friday.

‘If it was sacred, of course we respect those holy sites and we don’t want to upset people if they have genuine belief in a spiritual thing.’

However, Mr Ruddick said he suspected the claims came from other sources.  

‘I am convinced these claims are recent inventions of white left-wing extremists who are exploiting Aborigines and I don’t believe there is any documentary evidence for them,’ Mr Ruddick said. 

‘There are left-wing academics exploiting some Aborigines by encouraging them to make hocus pocus claims that inevitably make the white people cranky and fuel the racial division that is the goal of the left.

‘They don’t care about the negative impacts that will have on the Aboriginal people.

‘This is just a tool left-wing white academics use to make Australians feel bad about themselves.

‘That’s why we have to push back now, because it started with Uluru and now there is this and there will just be more and more and it’s not helping the Aboriginal people, it is actually making things worse.’ 

NSW MP John Ruddick claims there is a lack of evidence that Mt Warning was an Indigenous sacred site

NSW MP John Ruddick claims there is a lack of evidence that Mt Warning was an Indigenous sacred site 

In March 2020 the Wollumbin Consultative Group petitioned the then-Liberal state government to forbid access to Mount Warning to non-Aboriginal Australians, citing cultural and spiritual significance specific to Bundjalung men. 

Other local Aboriginal groups such as the Ngarakbal Githabul and Yoocum Yoocum disputed the cultural legitimacy of the Bundjalung over the site. 

‘Aborigines are not a monolith, there is always conflict among the local Aborigines,’ Mr Ruddick said.

‘It means the white academics have got in the ears of some them and the others say this is BS and we are going to publicly call it out as BS.

‘It happens every single time and that shows you how much credibility there is that it is a sacred site.

Three hikers are pictured on top of Mt Warning, which has been shut since the pandemic period

Three hikers are pictured on top of Mt Warning, which has been shut since the pandemic period

‘Up until this century there’s not one document from the 19th century or the 20 century of Aborigines saying this is a sacred mountain you are not allowed to climb here.’

Marc Hendrickx, who authored A Guide to Climbing Mt Warning, is co-sponsoring the petition to reopen Mt Warning and told Sydney radio station 2GB on Friday morning that the ban was ‘unbelievable’.

‘We want to put the pressure on (NSW Minister of Environment) Penny Sharpe to inject some common sense into this and reopen this mountain right now,’ he told interviewer Ben Fordham.

‘This was a climb visited by families, scout groups, nature lovers. Over 100,000 [people] climb the mountain each year.

‘It is a complete farce they have closed the mountain over this Covid period and it looks like it will never be opened again unless we raise our voices.

‘This is a chance to say no to division in our national parks.’ 

A spokesperson for Ms Sharpe said the minister ‘has met with and will continue to meet with a range of stakeholders to work through the issues with Wollumbin’. 

Mr Hendrickx is one of the founders for the Re-Open Mt Warning group, which has 4,700 members on Facebook

It was previously revealed that from April to October last year, private security guards were hired to keep people off Mt Warning at a cost of about $7,000 per week.

Overall, nearly $200,000 was spent securing the mountain and security is still brought in on occasions such as New Year’s Eve and Australia Day.

In the early hours of Australia Day last month, protesters led by Mr Hendrickx and Ngarakbal elder Sturt Boyd climbed to the Mt Warning peak to shoot a video, in what has become an annual tradition of defiance. 

In 2022, the NSW Department of National Parks recommended fully handing over management of the site on the Tweed Coast to the small Wollumbin Consultative Group, who support a ban on visitors to the popular hiking spot. 

The Wollumbin Consultative Group says the national park holds physical and spiritual importance to the community, particularly for the Bundjalung nation. 

‘Wollumbin is of the highest significance to the Aboriginal nations, particularly the Bundjalung nation in northern NSW, as a sacred ceremonial and cultural complex that is linked to traditional law and custom,’ the group told local publication the Echo in October, 2022.

‘Wollumbin is interconnected to a broader cultural and spiritual landscape that includes Creation, Dreaming stories and men’s initiation rites, of deep antiquity.

‘Bundjalung beliefs illustrate the spiritual values embodied and evoked in Wollumbin and its connections to a broader cultural landscape. 

‘These connections are important to the spiritual identity of the Bundjalung nation, many other nations and families connected to Wollumbin, predominantly men and also women.’

Attempts to contact the Wollumbin Consultative Group to put Mr Ruddick’s claims to them have been unsuccessful. 

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