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conservationist’s perspective on Mutawintji National Park

NSW Department of Education and Training Sites and Scenes 1999

Welcome to Mutawintji National Park. As a visitor to this unique place, you need to be aware of the fragility of rock-art sites found throughout Mutawintji National Park. Visitors have a strong impact on paintings, carvings and etchings found in caves and on flat rock surfaces. Natural factors such as sun, wind and rain erode rock-art over time but human intervention accelerates this process. While Mutawintji's surroundings may look harsh and rugged, the rockart you will find throughout Mutawinji is not. It is delicate and needs to be preserved and cared for.

At the National Parks and Wildlife Service we are making sure, with your help, that our heritage remains intact. To date, we have not needed to install bars to keep vandals and thieves out. Bars ruin the integrity of rockart and of national parks generally. However, recent attempts by visitors to vandalise and steal rockart have made us consider installing such security. In 1998, rangers discovered a piece of engraving that had been cut off the rock face and was in the process of being stolen.

Although most visitors to Mutawintji do not intentionally destroy rockart, they often do so out of ignorance. For instance, visitors have drawn over rock engravings or paintings with chalk or crayons so these images come out better in photographs. Other people have destroyed rockart by carving initials or images into rock surfaces near paintings and etchings. Problems with visitors defacing rockart with graffiti have been ongoing; this kind of damage was first noticed in 1925 by the Barrier Naturalists Club and again in 1967 by park visitor, Neale Edwards.

In conjunction with your help, NPWS ensures protection of rock paintings with the following management guidelines.

  • Visitor numbers to the park are being lowered and controlled.
  • Visitors can see Mutawintji historic site only as part of a guided tour, led by members of the local Aboriginal land council.
  • Rock-art sites in caves are being planted out with trees and vegetation to protect them from elements such as wind and rain.
  • Tracks leading to more sensitive sites are also being planted out.
  • Introduced species of animals, such as goats, rabbits, pigs and cats, are being removed from the park. Feral goats are particularly harmful to paintings and engravings close to the ground; they tend to rub up against artworks in caves or sleep on them. Goats also threaten the habitat of the endangered yellow footed rock wallabies, competing with them for food and shelter.

How can you assist us in looking after rockart at Mutawintji?

  • Stay away from rockart and do not touch it: please just look.
  • Tread carefully when you enter caves housing rock paintings and drawings, as dust scuffed up from your feet can erode paint.

When you visit Mutawintji National Park, make sure you follow these guidelines and together we can preserve and protect Aboriginal heritage. Remember that examples of rockart found at Mutawintji National Park are registered as Aboriginal sites. All Aboriginal sites are under the protection and control of the NPWS. It is illegal to damage or deface Aboriginal sites under the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.

We hope you enjoy your time at Mutawintji National Park.

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