First Nations sacred site attacked by vandals in Tubba-Gah country

A scarred tree significant to local Aboriginal people has been burned and its shelter destroyed.
Photo: Dubbo Daily Liberal

Dubbo Daily Liberal 23 March 23, 2014

Coral Peckham 1998
Photo: Michael Riley

A scarred tree significant to local Aboriginal people has been burned and its shelter destroyed.

A local Aboriginal site has been desecrated, the scarred tree at its centre burned, its shelter torn down.

Aboriginal Elder Coral Peckham said the attack was the latest in a long history of vandalism against Aboriginal sites in the region.

“This is Tubba-Gah country and we have an obligation to protect it on behalf of our ancestors,” Ms Peckham, a descendant of the Tubba-Gah and Wiradjuri peoples, said.

“When it’s not protected, the traditional people feel unwell.”

The markings on a scarred tree show how ancestors used its wood for tools, while carved trees act as headstones or markers of ceremonial sites.

Ms Peckham said she had seen the trees lacerated by chainsaws, hammered with nails, covered in paint, and burned.

“You feel unwell and sad when you see these things happening over and over and over again,” she said.

The recent desecration took place at a site close to the highway between Dubbo and Gilgandra, where the Aboriginal community had erected a wire and concrete shelter to protect the tree.

A Wiradjuri man who discovered the damage said the tree was “completely destroyed” by fire and the shelter ruined.

Harming or desecrating an Aboriginal object or site carries a maximum penalty of two years’ jail under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act.

Ms Peckham said after the Aboriginal community worked in the 1990s to erect signs around the special sites, many of these were then deliberately damaged.

Signs welcoming people to TubbaGah and Wiradjuri country on the way

to Wellington and Narromine, she said, had been shot through with bullets to the point of illegibility.

Ms Peckham said while Tubba-Gah and Wiradjuri country included hand stencils on rock walls and other significant pieces of Indigenous heritage, the elders would not disclose their whereabouts.

“We don’t want to do anything with that information because we’re too scared that someone will come up behind us and desecrate them.”

Dubbo City Council’s parks and landcare director, Murray Wood, said: “Any desecration of Aboriginal sites is disturbing and needs to be appropriately dealt with through the respective land holders and managers”.

Mr Wood said the two Aboriginal sites council helped to manage at Wiradjuri Park and Terramungamine Reserve had not seen significant vandalism.