Latest News

Back to Latest News back


Traditional owners say heritage is ‘non-negotiable’ in Grampians rock-climbing dispute

Traditional owners say heritage is ‘non-negotiable’ in Grampians rock-climbing dispute
July 2, 2019

Traditional owners in Victoria’s Grampians national park say they are prepared to work with rock climbers to allow the sport to continue, but not at the risk of causing further damage to cultural heritage.

As reported by the Guardian Australia, climbers have been barred from a third of the popular Grampians National Park, an area which climbing groups say contains three-quarters of the best high-quality climbing and bouldering sites, since Parks Victoria began enforcing previously ignored protected areas in March.

Last week, Parks Victoria granted a three-month extension to licensed rock-climbing tour operators to continue taking climbing groups to three designated walls within Summerday Valley provided they meet a strict set of conditions, including completing cultural heritage training and not using climber’s chalk. Any breach could lead to all operators being banned.

The Australian Climbing Association of Victoria, which formed in response to the ban, said the conditions were unworkable and the three-month extension was not long enough to allow operators to get public indemnity insurance or take bookings.

It has accused Parks Victoria of wedging climbers against traditional owners and maintains that climbers are the “natural allies” of Indigenous Australians.

However, the three traditional owner corporations which have ownership of the Grampians - the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation and Barengi Gadjin Land Council - support the ban and have praised Parks Victoria for responding to their concerns.

Barengi Gadjin Chairman Dylan Clarke said traditional owners had longstanding concerns about damage caused by rock climbing, which can include hammering metal bolts into the rock face and marks left by climbers’ chalk. There are also concerns around the cutting or wearing away of paths through the bush and the destruction of vegetation at the bottom of high traffic cliff faces.

With the Grampians containing 90% of Victoria’s registered rock art sites, areas protected under the climbing ban include rock scatters, quarry sites, songlines and areas of intangible cultural heritage, as well as areas that house significant plants.

Eastern Maar Chairman Jason Mifsud compared the debate to the ban on climbing Uluru, advising that most climbers, once they understood the heritage, were “quite embarrassed, very sympathetic and apologetic”.

Mifsud said if the new monitoring protocols in Summerday Valley proved successful, there could be scope to allow appropriately monitored and authorised climbing activity back in other areas.

He added “the preservation and protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage is non-negotiable.

“We aren’t saying that there’s to be no climbing, what we are saying is that there is to be no further destruction of cultural heritage.”

Australian Climbing Association of Victoria spokesman, Mike Tomkins, said climbers had “been very good stewards” of the park and were keen to see that heritage was not unintentionally damaged.

He advised “we don’t want to go back to these areas even if we can legally until we can have this consultation with traditional owners and make a proper apology for the offence that we have caused, because we are actually mortified that we have caused offence and harm to places that we didn’t know (about).”

However, Tomkins said climbers were angry at Parks Victoria, which he accused of running “a smear campaign” against rock climbing and cutting the climbers out of the process.

Images of Summerday Valley rockclimbing courtesy of Save Grampians Climbing.

Related Articles

28th June 2019 - High Court to determine Aboriginal right to control access to popular camping beaches

27th June 2019 - Rise in visitors to Uluru in advance of climbing ban

28th April 2019 - Dirt Art secures track construction contract for remaining 100 kilometres of Grampians Peaks Trail

19th February 2019 - New strategies developed to protect Pilbara rock art

18th September 2018 - New Parks Victoria Act looks to strengthen park management

7th September 2018 - Victorian first as traditional landowners take on park management

30th August 2018 - Agreement prompts potential World Heritage listing for Burrup Peninsula ancient Aboriginal site

23rd March 2018 - Melbourne centres host Sport Climbing Australia Open Lead and Speed Championships

4th January 2018 - Native title plan to maximise tourism opportunities for Gippsland Aboriginal community

5th July 2017 - Parks Victoria acknowledges work of Indigenous ranger during NAIDOC week

1st April 2016 - Distinguished environmentalist appointed to new Parks Victoria role

Asking a small favour
We hope that you value the news that we publish so while you're here can we ask for your support?

The news we publish at is independent, credible (we hope) and free for you to access, with no pay walls and no annoying pop-up ads.

However, as an independent publisher, can we ask for you to support us by subscribing to the printed Australasian Leisure Management magazine - if you don't already do so.

Published bi-monthly since 1997, the printed Australasian Leisure Management differs from this website in that it publishes longer, in-depth and analytical features covering aquatics, attractions, entertainment, events, fitness, parks, recreation, sport, tourism and venues management.

Subscriptions cost just $90 a year.

Click here to subscribe.


supplier directory

The Complete Guide to Leisure Industry Products & Services.

See the directory see all

TouchCloud Global

Activating skyscapes for tourism, art, leisure and living TouchCloud Global (TCg) is a highly specialised international consultancy, broker and principal, devoted solely to activating and energising…

read more

Attractions / Consultants / Recreation / Safety / Tourism



Quayclean are a national cleaning and waste services partner with proven results in the understanding and delivery of cleaning needs and challenges faced by facilities including; major venues and…

read more

Aquatics / Hospitality / Surfaces / Venues



Developed in Europe, this innovative system offers a safety management solution for swimming pools that checks individual swimmers via their wristband - monitoring their depth and time. Sensors…

read more

Aquatics / Hospitality / Safety / Technology / Waterparks



Vticket Pty Ltd is the Australian and New Zealand distributor for Gateway Ticketing Systems Inc., the world leader in high-speed access control, admission control and ticketing software for the…

read more

Attractions / Security / Technology / Ticketing / Venues



The Fitness Generation is now part of NovoFit - see

read more

Fitness / Technology / Wellness



PathMinder Pty Ltd have partnered with AllUser Industries srl to bring Europe’s most advanced high security portals to the Australian and New Zealand markets. AllUser Industries started to…

read more

Access / Fitness / Recreation / Security



Talk To Us For Independent Advice & Specialised Services We're business people, not sales reps IP HUB is one of Australia’s leading advisors on telecoms for both small businesses and…

read more

Marketing / Technology



Hidroplay welcomes you to the exciting world of children's Playscapes, waterslide's and Water Attractions. Appealing to families, Hidroplay increases patronage in your facility during those…

read more

Aquatics / Play / Recreation


get listed with our suppliers directory

Get your business noticed in our targeted directory. Viewed by 10,000 industry professionals per week!

list your business