One morning I read the devastating news that paintings, made by aboriginals before white settlement (Tasmania began to be settled by Europeans in 1803), in a rock shelter near the Derwent River had been vandalised. The images were made by the Big River people, also known as the teen toomele menennye and the cave is considered a sacred site for aboriginal people.
Such caves are unknown among the general public, they are not advertised or signposted, there are no roads to them, and their location cannot be discovered in books. This shelter is located on private property so that casual walkers are unlikely to have access.
To give some sort of perspective about the number of people who would know about aboriginal sites along the Derwent, inland Tasmania’s country is mostly either under primary production, forest plantations or related to electricity generation. Agricultural properties change hands over time and so it is reasonable to suggest that knowledge of any special sites would be shared across more people than the current owners and property managers. Caves on Hydro Tasmanian property would be known to a few employees. Nevertheless, outside the aboriginal community, the pool of people who know their whereabouts would be small. So when I learned of this tragedy I wondered why and who defiled the paintings.
I find it interesting that within a month of Hydro Tasmania releasing a newsletter mentioning the rock shelter, without giving a location, the vandalism was discovered. I wonder if there is a connection between that article and the damage; whether a reader of that newsletter who knew the rock shelter shared information about the site with someone who did not value the cultural history of our indigenous people. If you have more information please talk to Tasmania Police.
Here are some of the media stories: