Climbing on Country

Nature based sporting activities intersect with geography and geology. The landscape is not only a physical formation, but something which is informed with applications of value and meaning. Humankind shapes the landscape and apparently natural formations.

The landscapes of western Victoria were subject to intense degradation with the arrival of British colonisers in the early 19thcentury. Western Victoria is founded upon the disposed lands of the Djab Wurrung people. Slowly, this stolen land is being reclaimed. Part of this involves the sharing of management, and, more commonly it is found in ‘acknowledgments’ of Country.

Gardiwerd/The Grampians in Western Victoria is popular with domestic and foreign tourists and nature-oriented sports practitioners. The granite formations are spectacular: for some they are backdrops for Instagram posts. For others they are to be engaged and grappled with. Rock climbing is like an intimate, detailed and precarious engagement with a natural formation. It is risky and dangerous and thus the rewards for scaling a cliff are no doubt intense. Gariwerd is also offers clear examples of First Nations’ cultural heritage. Where many sacred sites throughout the lands of what is present day Victoria have no doubt been destroyed, the Sacred Sites in Gariwerd can still be protected and maintained.

Tony Birch has written critically of the process of renaming the Grampians/Gariwerd in an article in Meanjin in 2010. Some visitors to ‘The Grampians’ may know the Indigenous name of the place, but, they may not know how to pronounce it or its significance. The Brambuk Cultural Centre in Halls Gap (hitherto un-renamed) is part of the process of informing tourists of the area’s cultural heritage.

I swear I have never heard such a sentence before. Simon Talbot, of Parks Victoria says, regarding the ban on climbing in some parts of the Western Grampiams: “we were up in Gariwerd last week and Traditional Owners were very happy we are protecting their cultural heritage”. ‘Climbing on country’ presents an opportunity for the negotiation of priorities land management and cultural heritage.

The interview with Simon Talbot can be found here.

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