Wave Rock backlash

The long weekend just passed marked the 15th year of the Wave Rock Weekender music festival, but the local Indigenous communities disagree with holding the event on a culturally sacred sight.

More than 800 people from around WA packed their cars and hit the road for a long weekend of live music.

The event was a celebration for the local music industry but the cultural implications of holding a music festival at an Indigenous heritage site disappointed Ballardong communities.

David Collard is a Noongar man and Aboriginal consultant from the Ballardong region, where the festival was held, and said he was disgusted with how the festival was run.

“There’s no compliance with looking after the sight and people are not aware of the cultural significance of Wave Rock,” he said.

Mr Collard said it was unnecessary for the event to be held at the bottom of Wave Rock.

“The event management need to relocate off the sight to be able to protect and respect the actual cultural significance of that site.

“There’s no social responsibility being shown at all here. The economic factor is the one they’re leading with at the moment, especially in the COVID-19 recovery sort of sense, they’re trying to make as much bucks as possible,” he said.

Festival-goers access the top and bottom of the rock. Photo: Don Pugh.

Mr Collard said there was never a conversation had with the Ballardong Noongar people.

“They don’t see the significance in the sacredness of our heritage, and they don’t adopt our culture so why would they bother?” he said.

Shire of Kondinin community development officer Ayu Muftidhati said the event was essential in bringing people to the town of Hyden.

“The shire is happy the event happens for the economic factor. People are coming into the town but we don’t get any commission from the festival itself.

“Wave Rock is owned by the shire, but the Wave Rock Weekender is contracted to the Wave Rock Tourism company so the shire isn’t really involved in the event,” she said.

Ms Muftidhati said the protocols in place by the shire to acknowledge the original owners of the land were not enforced at the festival.

“The way we try to respect Aboriginal culture at Wave Rock is through the cultural tours, from there people can learn the Aboriginal history and respect the rock, but I don’t think that is offered during the festival,” she said.

South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council manager of land programs Jai Wilson said in a perfect world the Ballardong Noongar people would hold ownership of the rock, instead of the local shire.

“The Noongar people should be the ones that manage and decide whether festivals like this happen and how they happen. If they can do it for Uluru, I guess they can do it elsewhere,” he said.

The organiser of the Wave Rock Weekender was contacted but did not comment.

Categories: General, Indigenous affairs

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