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30 May 2006
Tasmanian rock art under wraps

The discovery of the largest gathering of Aboriginal rock art ever recorded in Tasmania is being kept secret. The ancient artwork has been described by an interstate rock art expert as spectacular and of worldwide significance and is believed to be thousands of years old. But details of the discovery are being kept secret because of concerns the State Government cannot adequately protect it.
     The rock art bonanza was among a statewide bounty of discoveries of ancient Aboriginal art and artifacts last year, including: a previously unrecorded ochre hand-stencil in the South-East; perhaps the largest gathering of petroglyphs ever recorded, found in forest in the North-East; unusually large Aboriginal stone tools found deep in the Southern Forests.
     Many newly reported findings are being investigated by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Office as part of a report into Tasmania's ancient rock art sites. But some new discoveries are being hidden from Government authorities in light of recent vandalism to other ancient sites, on the state's West Coast.
     Victorian rock art expert Robert Bednarik confirmed that three sites recently found in the North-East have authentic Aboriginal art thousands of years old. Mr Bednarik, who is also the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations chief executive, visited the sites in March. "At this stage, it can only be reported that a spectacular rock art discovery was made somewhere in Tasmania," he said. "Nothing will be reported until the Government learns to protect its cultural heritage properly and until the custodians are satisfied that community attitudes to indigenous culture have improved. "It is likely that this find will be reported internationally well before the public of Tasmania earns the right to know about it.
     The federation wrote to Premier Paul Lennon last week, calling for better protection of rock art sites. Mr Bednarik said the Government had failed to protect sites on the West Coast.
Sites at Greenes Creek and Sundown Point, near Marrawah, had been vandalised in recent years and he said the Government had no control over remote areas. "Relevant state authorities are unable to enforce existing regulations concerning the protection of natural and cultural assets in reserves or the conduct of visitors in protected zones," he said.

Sources: The Mercury, Tasmanian Sunday (21 May 2006)

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