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Wollumbin scientist questions sacred nature of mountain

Jeremy PierceGold Coast Bureau

With a push to permanently close Mount Warning in Northern NSW, to hikers due to its cultural significance, a scientist who spent years studying the area has questioned just how “sacred” the site actually is.

A scientist who spent years studying Mount Warning ‘Wollumbin” has questioned just how “sacred” the site is after a committee recommended closing it to the public forever.

Dr Peter Solomon wrote a thesis for the University of Queensland on his findings from years of study during the 1950s, focusing mostly on the area’s unique geological formations, but said he found no evidence of sacred sites.

Mount Warning “Wollumbin” has been off limits to hikers for almost three years and is unlikely to ever reopen after a recommendation to permanently bar general visitors.

Dr Solomon, who went on to obtain a PhD in science at Harvard University and spent decades working with government and private agencies on natural resources issues, contacted The Courier-Mail after reading how a panel known as the Wollumbin Consultative Group had recommended closing the hiking trail because “access is not culturally appropriate or culturally safe”.

Last week there was renewed hope that a compromise could be reached after a “positive” meeting between key stakeholders, but no formal moves have been made to reopen the trail.

Dr Solomon said he was surprised at the recommendations to permanently close the summit trail which followed almost three years of extended “temporary” closures.

“I found that very interesting,” he said.

“During my studies I was looking for sacred sites and I came to the conclusion that there were none around.

“I certainly don’t think there is enough evidence that it should be closed off to everybody because of the presence of any sacred sites.”

He said the geological wonders of the area meant it should be able to be enjoyed and experienced by the public, even if it meant the introduction of a permit system to regulate access.

“This is a very precious area,” he said.

“There is nothing else like it anywhere else in the world.”

It also acknowledged that the “identification of known Aboriginal sites and places within and surrounding Wollumbin AP is not exhaustive”, listing a number of important cultural sites nearby.

On Thursday, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service released a statement confirming any move to reopen the summit track would be at the discretion of the Aboriginal custodians.

The Wollumbin Consultative Group, whose views were published in the Wollumbin Aboriginal Place Management Plan released in October, has declined multiple requests for interviews and comment.

In the October report, the WCG called for the “immediate” closure of the area to the general public, but suggested requests to access the site for scientific purposes could be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The report identified the Wollumbin Aboriginal Place “as a sacred ceremonial and cultural complex that is linked to traditional law and custom … interconnected to a broader cultural and spiritual landscape”.



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One comment

  • Don Boswell January 9, 2023   Reply →

    We live in a time when intelligent people are silenced lest they offend stupid people.

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