Federal assessment of millennia-old rock art begins on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula

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The balance between major industry and ancient cultural heritage in a small corner of Western Australia’s north is once again under the microscope.

In September, federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek appointed an independent reporter to look into claims that significant Aboriginal sites are under threat due to continued industrialisation on the Burrup Peninsula, near Karratha in the Pilbara region.

The area is home to more than a million pieces of sacred rock art, and independent reporter Alison Stone will consider whether it is worthy of a ministerial declaration to protect it.

For Ngarluma woman Samantha Walker, the arrival of Ms Stone on her country last week presents an opportunity for many local people to have their first say on the issue.

“To feel the importance of my country … I need you to come, smell, feel and taste it while it’s still here,” she said.

Samantha Walker welcomes the arrival of the independent reporter to the region. (ABC: Amelia Searson)

“We don’t need more factories. Enough is enough.”

The Pilbara is known for its lucrative iron ore industry, but Ms Stone’s focus is the towering gas and chemical manufacturing operations on the Burrup.

The peninsula, called Murujuga in local language, is the site of the Yara Pilbara fertiliser plant and Australia’s largest liquefied natural gas producer, Woodside.

Meanwhile, there are plans for a new fertiliser facility owned by multinational group Perdaman, which would see the art moved off the Burrup.

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