The Traditional Owners of Gariwerd invited the Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network  (GWRN) to be part of the recent site visits in Gariwerd in order to learn more about climbing practices at Taipan Wall and Bundaleer. It was an opportunity for Traditional Owners to ask questions and gain a better understanding of climbing more broadly and the importance of these cliffs from GWRN members who have extensive rock climbing experience at these sites. GWRN’s input was valued by Traditional Owners and will allow for more informed discussions and decision making. 

The reconciliation-led approach has enabled us to build trust in our relationships and create a more collaborative approach. Traditional Owners are keen to work together with GWRN, and ultimately the broader climbing community, to find more nuanced management solutions that allow recreation activities, in this case specifically rock climbing, and Cultural Heritage to co-exist where appropriate.

We respect the need for these recently announced temporary closures at both sites to provide protection for Cultural Heritage while the necessary conversations take place. We also recognise that there is uncertainty and this is difficult for people, particularly following previous closures. Our goal is to work with Traditional Owners using the principles of reconciliation to arrive at a new process that brings our communities to a place of mutual respect and understanding. While we don’t know the outcomes, we do know that there is a genuine desire from the Traditional Owners to explore options that achieve both protection of Cultural Heritage and the continuation of recreation activities. These conversations are happening as there is an underlying belief that the co-existence of rock climbing and cultural heritage at these sites can be achieved.

Kind Regards 

Further Information

Where can I find out more information about the recent announcements?

Traditional Owner groups and Parks Victoria have released information through their media channels.

Why was GWRN asked to be involved in the site assessments?

GWRN was invited to be involved in the site visits as a trusted resource.  Undertaking a reconciliation approach has fostered a level of respect and trust between Traditional Owners and GWRN.  As a result Traditional Owners asked for GWRN’s input as they wished to learn more about climbing and understand the value of these sites to the climbing community. GWRN provided information about how these sites are used and accessed by climbers. This will allow the Traditional Owners to make more informed decisions about the future management of Cultural Heritage in Gariwerd.

Why is GWRN involved when other similarly qualified climbers or climbing organisations have not been invited?

GWRN is not a representative climbing body. We were invited as a trusted, reconciliation focused, resource with the knowledge and expertise to provide valuable input and bring the perspective of climbing from our members’ knowledge and experience to the conversation. This invitation was an opportunity for Traditional Owners to ask questions openly, and to seek knowledge that could inform their decision making.

Being an independent non-aligned group has been a key consideration in the approach of GWRN. The ability to enter the conversation with no agenda and no expectations on the process, rather a willingness to support a more objective and reconciliation focussed conversation has been key in shifting the dynamic.

It is important to note that GWRN is not making any decisions or negotiating on behalf of the climbing community, simply helping Gariwerd Traditional Owners with information and acting as a resource. It is not consultation with the climbing community.

This is the first time that this has occurred in the current access discussion. It’s not up to GWRN to determine which other organisations are able to participate in the site visits. Demonstrating broader support for the reconciliation approach within the climbing community and climbing organisations will hopefully lead to an environment that is more conducive to involvement beyond GWRN. 

Given these are temporary closures, how long is this likely to take and what is the process?

This is yet to be determined. Ideally, the Gariwerd Traditional Owner Groups and GWRN would like to see these occur before the release of the Draft Gariwerd (Grampians) Landscape Management Plan to ensure that any access and protection mechanisms are clearly specified in the plan. However, we also appreciate that this process is novel, likely to be timeintensive and involved, and therefore encourage patience and goodwill in the climbing community as things are worked through.

The Gariwerd Traditional Owners are aware of the importance of Taipan to the climbing community and are eager to work through this as quickly as possible. The Gariwerd Traditional Owners want to develop a process that is transparent, informed and consistent, that will be able to be replicated at other sites within Gariwerd and potentially other cultural landscapes. Ideally the process would be able to input into the Draft Gariwerd (Grampians) Landscape Management Plan.  

While the desire is that this is a timely process, given current COVID 19 restrictions, it is impossible to give a definitive time frame. 

How can the climbing community and climbing organisations show support and be involved?

The climbing community and climbing  organisations  can show support and be involved in many ways: 

  • As stakeholders, climbing organisations, and any interested individuals, will be able to provide input and feedback to Parks Victoria on the Draft Gariwerd (Grampians) Landscape Management Plan. 
  • Demonstrating support for this process through patience and good will, and asking your membership or broader community to do the same.
  • Consider the 5 dimensions of reconciliation and how your organisation, or you as an individual, can incorporate these into your daily life and interactions.
  • Encouraging and actively pursuing a reconciliation approach 
  • Commencing a process of self reflection and learning at a committee level or as an individual
  • Supporting GWRN by liking our facebook page, making a donation or becoming a member via our website, which will be launched in the next few months with our new website

What is GWRN doing to prepare and support the community for working with Traditional Owners in this way?

As a reconciliation based network one of our four purposes is to engage with recreational user groups and other relevant stakeholders to promote reconciliation. 

We are in ongoing conversations with climbing organisations to talk about how they can incorporate reconciliation-led approaches into their work. There continues to be an open invitation to any of the climbing organisations to meet with us to talk more about what we have been doing and how we can work together.  We have also met with more localised interest groups to talk about what we have been doing and the benefits of a reconciliation-led approach. We look forward to working more closely with these groups, and indeed any groups that are interested in reconciliation, in the future.

We provided the authors of the draft Victorian Climbing Management Guidelines with feedback based on a reconciliation-led approach; as well as providing feedback on the Crag Stewards program.   

GWRN has provided some guidance on language considerations for people and groups making a submission to the Dyuritte 1 Interim Protection Order, also brokering a meeting between the VCC and  Barengi Gadjin Land Council. 

We regularly post links to resources on our Facebook page, particularly during National Reconciliation Week. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the films, resources or podcasts they are a great resource. Some of the activities we had planned for National Reconciliation Week were unable to occur due to COVID 19, but we are looking to run them later this year.  We have been lucky to receive a grant from Reconciliation Victoria to support these activities. 

We have received a grant from Horsham Rural City Council’s Community Grants program which will go towards development of a website to be used as a platform to share content and provide opportunities to learn about reconciliation. This will also allow us to develop our membership base for those who are keen to be more involved. 

On the back of National Reconciliation Week with its theme of In this together,  we would like to encourage everyone to read the post shared on Climbing QT’s and our GWRN Facebook Page about Reconciliation and the Outdoors. The post raises questions that individual climbers and climbing groups can consider to help us get to a place where more respectful conversations are possible, helping us move along a pathway to reconciliation.  

What can we share about what was discussed on site? 

The Traditional Owners invited GWRN to attend these site visits to provide information about climbing practices and the value of these sites to the climbing community. The conversations on site allowed for a much clearer understanding of the interaction between recreational activities and cultural heritage values. 

We were asked about how climbers use the site, how the sites are accessed, if there were any potential solutions or changes that could be made to enable co-existence.
We were asked about the nature of the user groups, the significance of the crag to climbers and the impacts of any closures.

This information will allow for more informed discussions and a tailored management response where appropriate and facilitate Traditional Owners to make informed decisions about the future management of their heritage.

What is the long term goal of these site assessments?

It is the intention of the Traditional Owners, that for individual climbing sites where cultural heritage values are present, there is a defined process that can protect the values that exist, consider the recreational uses, and consider the options for coexistence. It is hoped that this more granular approach can be applied more broadly. 

In the long term, GWRN would like to work with climbing organisations who are interested in pursuing a reconciliation-led approach in order to create a respectful forum where genuine and robust conversations can take place.

These discussions are where relationships can build and form. Our hope is to work with interested groups so that ultimately we can step back and no longer need to be part of these ongoing discussions. 

The intention of these conversations is not about trying to close climbing or other recreational activities, but about trying to understand if, and how, cultural values and recreation can co-exist. GWRN sees its role as working to facilitate sustainable and meaningful solutions for both Traditional Owners and the climbing community. The climbing community and organisations will play a vital role in determining whether we can all come together to achieve this.