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Ancient art site’s UNESCO nomination fixed after delay

The Burrup Peninsula contains the world's largest and oldest collection of petroglyphs.

The Burrup Peninsula contains the world's largest and oldest collection of petroglyphs. Photo: Ken Mulvaney

An ancient site adorned with 40,000 years of Indigenous art has had its World Heritage application remedied after the government’s initial nomination was deemed incomplete.

The Burrup Peninsula, located in WA’s Pilbara region and known to traditional owners as Murujuga, contains the world’s largest and oldest collection of petroglyphs and has been put forward for UNESCO World Heritage listing.

However, the Australian government’s incomplete submission delayed the Burrup Peninsula’s nomination by 12 months which means consideration for the sacred rock art will not begin until 2025 despite being lodged in January this year, according to activist group Save Our Songlines.

The news comes as fossil fuel giant Woodside continues to drill the area for gas and proposes a new project that would produce billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2070.

Activists took to Parliament House lawns in Canberra on Monday to protest the gas operations alongside independent senator David Pocock.

Mardudhunera woman and former chair of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation Raelene Cooper said the delay was “the latest evidence of government and industry colluding to keep expanding Woodside’s Burrup Hub over our sacred Murujuga rock art”.

“The Burrup is a building site right now and our sacred sites have been destroyed to make room for a massive fertiliser plant with all its toxic emissions,” she said.

However, a spokeswoman from the environment minister’s office said the government’s application was deemed incomplete because of issues relating to map boundaries and topography.

“Western methods of mapping don’t allow for Indigenous understanding of cultural values, boundaries and knowledge,” the spokeswoman told AAP.

“The cultural landscape nomination spans across land and sea country, which is a difficult concept to fit into Western concepts of borders.”

The government helped First Nations people work with UNESCO to update its understanding of cultural boundaries and the application had now been deemed “complete and valid”, she said.

However, Tanya Plibersek’s office did not comment on the delays, saying “further information on the progression of the nomination is a matter for the UNESCO World Heritage Centre”.

Woodside says it seeks to avoid impacts to cultural heritage and has detailed management plans.

– AAP

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