NSW Government Protects Sacred Aboriginal Site: The Butterfly Cave

NSW Government Protects Sacred Aboriginal Site: The Butterfly Cave

In a significant move to preserve Aboriginal heritage, the NSW government announced on Tuesday that it has acquired a culturally significant bushland area in the Hunter to protect the sacred Butterfly Cave. This investment aligns with the government’s election promise to safeguard heritage sites, including the Butterfly Cave, from various threats. NSW Government Protects Sacred Aboriginal Site: The Butterfly Cave

Cultural Significance of the Butterfly Cave

The Butterfly Cave holds deep cultural importance for the Awabakal Aboriginal community. This rock overhang and its surrounding bushland serve as a sacred site for Awabakal women, used for generations for cultural practices and sacred women’s business. It is a safe haven where Aboriginal women and children can meet and where female Elders educate young girls.

Government’s Commitment to Heritage Protection

After consultations with Aboriginal women, the government expressed pride in ensuring the site’s perpetual protection, thus honoring the deep connections and ancestral knowledge of the Awabakal people. This acquisition results from a long-standing campaign led by Aboriginal women, supported by the broader community, to recognize and safeguard this sacred land.

Details of the Acquisition

The 25.74-hectare plot, now under the protection of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, encompasses the Butterfly Cave and the surrounding cultural landscape. This area includes vital elements such as aquifers, traditional journey paths, creeks, stone arrangements, and food source areas.

Awabakal woman Aunty Margaret Harvey reflected on the campaign’s challenges, stating, “The campaign to protect the site has been a long and painful fight for Aboriginal women. We thank the New South Wales government for listening to us and respecting us by allowing our voices to be heard.”

Aunty Lyn Brown emphasized the decision’s importance, “The protection of the Butterfly Cave is a real and positive step towards reconciliation in NSW. We thank the Minns Labor government for hearing our voices, respecting our voices, and working with us to protect our cultural heritage now and into the future.”

Future Management and Protection

Managed by the state’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, the land will be permanently protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. The NSW government has committed to consulting with the local Aboriginal community on future management and protection of the surrounding cultural landscape.

The Butterfly Cave was declared an Aboriginal Place under the National Parks and Wildlife Act in 2013, supported by the landowner, and recognized as a significant Aboriginal Area by the Australian government in 2019.

Government and Community Reactions

NSW Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Penny Sharpe, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, “After a 13-year campaign, the Minns Labor government is pleased to permanently protect the Butterfly Cave. I want to thank the Aboriginal women who have never given up their care and protection of this important site so it can be used by generations to come.”

Member of Cessnock, Clayton Barr, highlighted the importance of protecting the Traditional Owners’ culture, “These incredible women have been fighting for so long; they have met with so many Ministers of Government and Departmental workers that it’s hard to count; their courage and conviction never wavered. The Minns government is finally doing what was always the ‘right’ thing to do, but hadn’t been done.”

NSW Government Protects Sacred Aboriginal Site: The Butterfly Cave

This historic move ensures the preservation of the Butterfly Cave, allowing it to remain a crucial meeting place for Aboriginal women to engage in traditional practices and share cultural knowledge with younger generations.

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Source: https://nit.com.au/18-06-2024/12033/nsw-government-takes-major-step-to-protect-sacred-butterfly-cave

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