By Tegan Burton, Grad Dip in Archaeology
In collecting material for case studies that will form part of my Directed Studies topic I found myself with the amazing opportunity to participate in the Mount Grenfell Cultural Heritage Project 17th – 21st March 2014.
North-west of Cobar, NSW, the Mount Grenfell reserve lands (including Mount Grenfell Historic Site and proposed Mount Grenfell National Park) fall within the ngurrampaa (Country) of the Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan people (NPWS 2013).
The Historic Site was originally purchased from Mount Grenfell Station in 1979 in recognition of the need to preserve and protect several galleries of yapapuwan karul (rocks with art) (Beckett et al 2003). In 2004 the Historic Site was finally handed back to Aboriginal owners, the second reserve in NSW to be handed back, and then leased back to the Minister of the Environment under Part 4A of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPWS 2013).
In 2010 the remainder of Mount Grenfell Station was purchased, in part as a buffer for the Historic Site and also in recognition of further significant cultural and natural values. The reserve lands now have a combined area of more than 19,000 hectares and are managed through an arrangement where the Mount Grenfell Board of Management (the Board) sets the overall direction for management and the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) carries out day-to-day operations (NPWS 2013).
In recent times the Board has identified the need for succession planning for future effective representation of the Aboriginal Owners, and last year established a ‘junior board’ in order to address this issue. It’s a progressive move and which is generating plenty of interest from others involved in joint management arrangements in NSW.
The Mount Grenfell Cultural Heritage Project aims to develop capacity in cultural heritage management, foremost amongst the junior board and also within the broader Ngiyampaa community and local NPWS staff. Stage 1, in which I participated, focused on creating opportunities for industry and cultural experts to share knowledge while on country (Flakelar 2014).
From my city home to Mount Grenfell is not the shortest venture, approximately 760 kms by road, but it was an inspiring week and well worth the trip!
What made it so inspiring?
The stunning landscapes of the Cobar Peneplain (Mitchell 2005) – an expanse of red soils, flat plains dissected by stony slopes and residual ranges, dry creek beds with charismatic gums, all in such contrast to the Hawkesbury Sandstone I now call home.
Charismatic gums in a dry river bed; the stony slopes of the Cobar Peneplain
The range of ‘site’ types – small and large rock art shelters; stone hearths along creek banks; numerous and diverse stone tools – and the way they bring to life a whole of landscape perspective, a continuation of the value placed by Aboriginal people on the connectedness of things rather than isolated ‘sites’.
Assortment of stone artefacts found within Mount Grenfell reserve lands
Small selection of rock art found at Mount Grenfell reserve lands
Seeing the junior board increasingly engaged. Listening to the board members and elders sharing their knowledge and experience – with the junior board; with archaeologists; with National Parks staff; and with participating students – and rebuilding cultural connections with ngurrampaa. And being a part of community, land managers and archaeologists working together.
Jess, Meredith, Susanne and Hilary record a hearth
Stepping away from archaeology, Aunty Josephine gave me a lesson in making the best johnny cakes ever, while Uncle Lawrence gave me a lesson in the best way to eat them. I also learnt what kangaroo meat to eat – black kangaroo (Eastern Grey) is no good, red kangaroo (male Red Kangaroo) is tolerable, but it’s the blue kangaroo (female Red Kangaroo) that is the best!
Keeping a close eye on ‘the best johnny cakes ever’
I mentioned my education in johnny cakes and kangaroos to participants in an Indigenous mentoring program back home in the city. Calling them the best johnny cakes ever was a big call, but if they were made by an elder chances are it’s true, and it was unbelievable that I didn’t already know about the differences in kangaroo tucker. All that learning I’ve done at university and work . . . what I really needed to do was spend a week on country, with the right people, to learn the things that really matter.
Beckett, J., Donaldson, T., Steadman, B. and Meredith, S. 2003 Yapapunakirri, Let’s Track Back: the Aboriginal works around Mount Grenfell. Sydney: Office of the Registrar.
Flakelar, D. 2014 Mount Grenfell Cultural Heritage Project March 2014. Unpublished project outline for OEH Parks and Wildlife Group.
Mitchell, P. 2005 Landform survey of the Mount Grenfell Historic Site. Report to Mount Grenfell Historic Site Board of Management and DEC Parks and Wildlife Division.
NPWS 2013 Mount Grenfell Historic Site and proposed Mount Grenfell National Park Draft Plan of Management. Sydney: Office of the Environment and Heritage.