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Issue #1673      February 18, 2015

Preserving Gomeroi grinding grooves

The Gomeroi Traditional Custodians can’t help but respond to Paul Jackson, Manager of the Chinese government-owned company Shenhua who are wanting approval for three big pits of open-cut coal mining in the Liverpool Plains.

Unhappy with Shenhua: Supporters of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians protest at Breeza Community Hall.

Respected Elder Uncle Cyril Sampson said “Shenhua is wanting to rip the gut out of our Country. They are wanting to destroy our grinding groove sites which have been there for thousands of years and repeatedly used by generations of our ancestors”

Mr Jackson’s public statement made on the December 30, 2014 to the ABC said “We don’t want to destroy these Grinding Grooves.” The Gomeroi Traditional Custodians say “Well keep your word and leave our sacred grinding grooves alone”.

Our community were shocked at Project Manager Paul Jackson’s statement to the ABC that said “Shenhua proposes to move the rocks the Grooves are on, and put them back in the same location when the mining pit is rehabilitated, in 17 years.”

Mr Jackson’s statements suggest some kind of technical feat will be performed in “gently moving the sacred grinding grooves out of the way while they undertake mining only to return them unharmed back in their place in several years to come”. Anyone that sees the Hunter and Whitehaven and Boggabri open cut mining activities knows how ridiculous this statement is.

Shenhua failed to tell the public that they intend to cut the grinding grooves up into pieces because the grinding groove sites are so large they can’t be moved as one whole piece.

The truth is that Shenhua wants to carve them up – like a jigsaw puzzle – forever destroying them. The aquifer providing the water which keeps the grinding grooves in their state will also be destroyed and the landscape Shenhua want to return the grooves pieces to will be forever changed and the meaning and purpose of the area lost. How can you declare smashed grinding grooves is not destruction?

How is this valuing our culture and heritage? How is this respecting our sites especially sites of such significance. Have a look at what mines have done to grinding groove sites in the Hunter. Have a look at the grinding grooves moved and placed at the Boggabri Park – it’s a sham and it’s shameful and it’s destructive. Please provide an example of successful removal ... look at the size of the grooves at Shenhua.

Would the Chinese people want to have the Great Wall of China cut up into pieces and then put back into a different landscape because Australia wanted to mine for coal? Or would they send us packing and want to save them? Would they not be outraged?

The Chinese government have laws to protect their relics and cultural property of importance they recognise that the Great Wall of China is not portable – we say to the Chinese People’s Republic our grinding grooves are decidedly not portable. Just like their cultural assets Gomeroi people have artefacts and places of significance and these need to be saved and protected.

We also refer to Shenhua’s own assessment document AECOM 2012 Appendix F2 which clearly states that “the friable nature of the sandstone makes it susceptible to erosion spalls etc” How can Shenhua tell the public that the grooves will be gently moved and put back into place without being broken?

“Mr Jackson also inferred in his ABC article that he did us a favour in finding them (the grooves) which is not the truth. Our Elders worked these farms all their lives and just because we did not talk about the sacred places and objects does not mean that they are not known to us. Also being denied access to our sites does not diminish their value,” said respected elder Uncle Dick Talbott.

We haven’t worked out if Shenhua are showing a huge dose of ignorance or arrogance with Mr Jackson’s public statements such as “We can use it as an education tool for the wider community so we all have a better understanding of the Aboriginal culture. It would really destroy me if we’ve got the opportunity to do that, if we chose to hide it away and not do anything with it.”

We say “yes Mr Jackson you do have the opportunity to learn about our culture and heritage but to do so, learn about our culture and heritage by listening to our Elders and community and learn the importance of the grinding grooves by leaving them where they are” said Dolly Talbott.

Aunty Helen Humble believes “Mr Jackson and the board of Shenhua your thinking is wrong. Your way of respecting our culture and heritage is considered disrespectful and reflects poor judgement and complete lack of understanding.”

We do not believe the average Australian will think it reasonable nor right for you to have approval to destroy such amazing grinding grooves. A company owned by the People’s Republic of China simply should not get approval from the NSW government to destroy another country’s valuable culture and heritage – Aboriginal culture and heritage.

To infer that somehow Shenhua have done us a favour and will do us a favour in the process of you gouging huge holes in the Liverpool Plains is very upsetting. The location of these grinding grooves are for a purpose, they are not for you to destroy and they should be saved for both Gomeroi and all other Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community appreciation of our culture – the oldest living culture on this planet.

We say, “Sorry Mr Jackson and Shenhua a company of the Chinese government that something got lost in the translation”.

GTC Elders and community

Dolly Talbott on behalf of the Gomeroi Traditional Custodians

* Aboriginal grinding groove sites are rock depressions of various sizes that were formed by the repeated movement of hard stone artefacts against a softer stone surface. This was done to either sharpen stone hatchet heads, stone wedges, hand held “axes” and wooden artefacts with fire hardened points (such as digging sticks) or to grind secondary material (such as grass seeds). Grinding grooves were almost always located close to a source of water which was used to assist the grinding process [Ed].

Next article – CPA statement concerning threats to the Internet rights of Australians

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