An Anglo-Australian mining company ‘Rio Tinto’ has blown up a sacred indigenous site with dynamite. Juukan Gorge was protected by the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people. The 46,000 year old site is one of the oldest in the world and discoveries at the site include 4,000 year old braided hair and over 7,000 relics including some of the earliest tools and grinding stones built by man.
The Aboriginal people had fought in court to protect the site for 7 years. The move has been condemned by Former Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who said “corporate arrogance had robbed all Australians.”
After destroying the site, the CEO of the company that carried out the destruction said “We are sorry for the distress we have caused” and “We pay our respects to the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura People (PKKP)”
The representative of the PKKP, John Ashburton said this was a “devastating blow” and that “there are less than a handful of known Aboriginal sites in Australia that are as old as this one…it’s importance can not be underestimated”
“Juukan Gorge’s shelters [are] nine-times older than Stonehenge, 23-times older than the Colosseum and 75-times older than Machu Picchu”Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd condemns the move on Twitter
Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said this should never happen again and that legislation had failed. He commented the “destruction should not have occurred”
Burchell Hayes, who is the spokesperson for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura Aboriginal Corporation, said that Rio Tinto’s intentions were only known on May 15.
Despite, as the Former Prime Minister said, the site being nine times older than Stonehenge, 23 times older than the Colosseum and 75 times older than Machu Picchu, the reaction from the media, outside Australia, was rather quiet. Some news outlets reported it but were mainly Australian, however, once the apology was made days later, then it began making international headlines.
It has now been reported by the BBC, with the focus on the apology which came after, under the Headline “Mining Firm Rio Tinto sorry for destroying Aboriginal caves”. Instead of the focus being on the pain inflicted on the Aboriginal people and the loss of history, it was hardly reported at the time when the destruction took place. Today the focus was on the post-destruction apology by most international western media. The apology made the titles of CNN, the Independent, Reuters, the Daily Mail and the Guardian.
A petition has been started online to “Hold Rio Tinto accountable for the destruction of Juukan Gorge cave”
An Ongoing History?
Certainly if the, comparatively much younger, Stonehenge or Westminster Abbey had been demolished for the sake of a mining companies profits, it would (rightly so) cause uproar. The question remains why the history of Aboriginals is not shown the same courtesy.
Perhaps this can be explained by systemic racism which enabled Europen and British colonialism over Australia. From 1790 onward 311 frontier massacres were carried out against indigenous Australians. Years of racist policy meant children were forced from their parents. Even in modern times up to 33% of all indigenous children were separated from their families between 1910-1970.
Anglo-Australians have recently fought for indigenous Australian rights which lead to Former Prime Minister saying in 2007 he will apologise to the Aboriginal people for the Stolen Generations. He fulfilled his promise in February 2008.