Hunter Valley Aboriginal rock art listed on State Heritage Register

ABORIGINAL HERITAGE: R.H. Mathews’ first published a paper about Aboriginal culture in 1893 in which he sketched the Hunter Valley rock painting of Baiame, the creator.A rare Aboriginal rock art site that features a larger-than-life, painted male ­figure overlooking the Hunter Valley has been given the state’s highest form of heritage protection.

Heritage Minister Mark Speakman said the site was nominated bythe Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation which represents Wonnarua people, the traditional owners of the Hunter Valley.

“This rare and beautiful site is located on private farming land whose owners have had cordial relations with local Aboriginal people for three generations, making the site readily accessible for their ceremonial and educational use,” Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said.

“Through their ongoing relationship, they are able to access the site to renew their cultural learning and to be fully involved in its ongoing conservation and management.

“I’d like to congratulate the Wonnarua people and the Aboriginal Corporation.

“Their determination will ensure this site has the highest heritage protection under our state laws, ensuring culture won’t be lost for future generations.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Leslie Williams said the listing reinforced the government’s commitment to protecting sites that are significant to Aboriginal people.

“This is a wonderful example of landowners and traditional owners working together for the benefit of future Australians to conserve, protect and acknowledge the important and unique value of rock art ceremonial sites in NSW,” Mrs Williams said.

“While all Aboriginal culturalheritage is legally protected in NSW, ­listing on the State Heritage Register is the highest form of heritage protection and recognition in the state and will ensure the future management of the site.”

The male figure painted on the cave walls at the site is understood to be Baiame – the creator, father of all and law maker. He is depicted with outstretched arms looking out over the valley, protecting all that he has created.

Rock art sites in NSW are more likely to feature smaller-scale engravings of animals or human figures, or painted hand stencils, rather than large, painted human figures.

Although unusual in the NSW context, this is one of many regional variations of rock art across NSW and therefore, has statewide comparative and representative value.

The site was the topic of R.H. Mathews’ first published paper about Aboriginal culture in 1893. He was a trained surveyor now considered to be a great amateur anthropologist who had relatively respectful and cordial relations with Aboriginal people, and whose observations offer reliable insights into traditional culture.

It is also one of a network of sites ­associated with the dreamtime activities of Baiame across eastern Australia such as the nearby Mount Yengo, the Byrock granite outcrop, the copper deposits at Cobar, the Narran Lake and Baiame’s Ngunnhu, more commonly known as the Brewarrina Fishtraps.

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