Tourists visiting Queensland’s Carnarvon National Park have come under fire, after the wannabe influencers put an historic Indigenous site at risk with their disrespectful holiday selfies.
The park’s rock art sites are, according to senior ranger Luke Male, of international importance, and are marked as restricted access areas to prevent tourists from interfering with the “fragile” rock art.
However, “some visitors to Carnarvon National Park think the rules don’t apply to them and they’re entering restricted access areas to pose for photos.
“In some instances, they are posing in front of Indigenous rock art that is thousands of years old, or they’re actually touching it.
“The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service makes no apology for taking compliance action against people who break the rules because they believe they are influencers.”
Over the course of 12 months, six different people have been slapped with fines for entering the restricted areas to interact with the rock face – whether to take selfies or to go so far as to touch it – and 18 more fines have been issued for other offences, with camping in the protected area also landing them in trouble with park officials.
Touching the art is considered disrespectful, but isn’t the only reason visitors are asked to keep their distance, as touch can also wear down the work. The likes of sunscreen, perspiration, and hand sanitiser can cause further damage, while dust stirred from people walking through the space can adhere to the rock face.
As Male explained of the situation, “the ochre stencil art of the region is unique, diverse, highly complex and spectacular, and the rock art is embedded within sandstone that is incredibly fragile.
“It is a great honour and privilege for us to be able to see these rock art sites, and touching them can damage cultural artefacts that are thousands of years old.”
He also shared that the park rangers regularly received “information, including photos from members of the public about people who have broken the rules.
“People have to understand that the Traditional Owners remain connected to this place and the rock art within it, and they regard the entire Carnarvon National Park as a cultural site.”
Carnarvon National Park Traditional Owners Management Group Committee’s Bidjara representative Leah Wyman had more to add on the importance of protecting the artworks, sharing that “our rock art bears thousand-year-old images, and they provide valuable information about the lives and cultures of our people in the past.
“They are also important spiritual and ceremonial sites to us, and it is imperative that everyone stays on the walkways to ensure that Carnarvon National Park can be visited by future generations to come.”
Another member of the committee and Bidjara woman Kristine Sloman noted that the park itself was a cemetery, and that the sites were locations where family members had been laid to rest, so “getting off the boardwalks and walking around is of the utmost disrespect, and is comparable to attending someone’s funeral and walking on their coffin.
“Many people around the world have chosen to close their sacred sites due to destructive impacts, and it would be a great shame to resort to this type of action.
“Let’s appreciate, learn, nurture, and respect each other’s cultures and ensure no more of our sacred places are damaged or closed to the public.”
Images: Department of Environment and Science
This article first appeared on Over60.