Selfish selfies put Carnarvon rock art at risk

Issued: 21 Jun 2023

Photo of a woman who was fined for entering a restricted access area.Open larger image

This woman was fined for entering a restricted access area.

Photo of a boy in front of the rock art. His parents received a fine.Open larger image

The parents of this boy received a fine.

The Carnarvon National Park’s vivid, dynamic rock art are at risk from people intent on creating self-indulgent, unlawful selfies for use on social media.

Senior Ranger Luke Male said the rock art sites at Carnarvon National Park are of international importance, and the park is a great place to view and learn about the meaning of Indigenous rock art.

“Some visitors to Carnarvon National Park think the rules don’t apply to them and they’re entering Restricted Access Areas to pose for photos,” Mr Male said.

“In some instances, they are posing in front of Indigenous rock art that is thousands of years old, or they’re actually touching it.

“The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service makes no apology for taking compliance action against people who break the rules because they believe they are influencers.

“In the past year, rangers have issued 18 fines to people in the Carnarvon National Park for various offences including camping in a protected area and fire offences.

“We have also issued six $431 fines to people who have entered Restricted Access Areas to take selfies or touch the rock face.

“The ochre stencil art of the region is unique, diverse, highly complex and spectacular, and the rock art is embedded within sandstone that is incredibly fragile.

“It is a great honour and privilege for us to be able to see these rock art sites, and touching them can damage cultural artefacts that are thousands of years old.

“The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is committed to protecting and preserving the natural and cultural values of our national parks, and we take a zero-tolerance approach to people who break the rules.”

Bidjara Representative Leah Wyman from the Carnarvon National Park Traditional Owners Management Group Committee said visitors to the park can assist in preserving historical cultural sites and the environment.

“Our rock art bears thousand-year-old images and they provide valuable information about the lives and cultures of our people in the past,” Ms Wyman said.

“They are also important spiritual and ceremonial sites to us, and it is imperative that everyone stays on the walkways to ensure that Carnarvon National Park can be visited by future generations to come.”

Bidjara Representative Kristine Sloman from the Carnarvon National Park Traditional Owners Management Group Committee said the national park is a giant cemetery, and the rock art sites are places where family members have been laid to rest.

“Getting off the boardwalks and walking around is of the utmost disrespect, and is comparable to attending someone’s funeral and walking on their coffin,” Ms Sloman said.

“Many people around the world have chosen to close their sacred sites due to destructive impacts, and it would be a great shame to resort to this type of action.

“Let’s appreciate, learn, nurture, and respect each other’s cultures and ensure no more of our sacred places are damaged or closed to the public.”

Mr Male said rangers will issue fines to anyone who enters Restricted Access Areas around the rock art, and routinely check social media for selfies that have been taken unlawfully.

“We also receive information, including photos from members of the public about people who have broken the rules,” he said.

“People have to understand that the Traditional Owners remain connected to this place and the rock art within it, and they regard the entire Carnarvon National Park as cultural site.

“The artwork on the sandstone walls of Carnarvon Gorge is part of what makes Carnarvon National Park such an iconic and much-loved national park.

“The boardwalks are designed to give people the best possible view of the sites, and people don’t get a better view by leaving the boardwalk.”

Rock art must be protected:

  • Sandstone is very soft and cumulative impact of persons touching the rock face causes wear
  • Sunscreen, sweat and hand sanitiser can damage rock art
  • Entering Restricted Access Areas causes dust to lift which can adhere to the rockface
  • Touching rock art is disrespectful to the Traditional Owners.