Influencer wannabes fined $431 for 'disrespectful' act at Indigenous site

Local Indigenous representatives hope they won't have to close the site to the public.

Queensland authorities are urging wannabe influencers to stop leaving boardwalks and entering restricted areas to take “self-indulgent” selfies.

Eighteen fines have been issued over the last 12 months to tourists entering Carnarvon National Park in the state’s rugged central highlands. Six people were given $431 fines after they entered protected areas to take selfies or touch the rock face.

For thousands of years, Indigenous rock art has existed within the park but authorities now fear unlawful selfies are threatening its future.

Two images of a woman posing in front of Indigenous rock art. She appears to be touching it.
This woman was fined last year after rangers reviewed her Instagram posts and found she'd touched protected rock art in a restricted area. Source: DES/Supplied

Unique art put at risk by Instagrammers

Ranger Luke Male described the art as “incredibly fragile”, adding that the ochre stencil art of the region is “unique, diverse, highly complex and spectacular”.

“The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) makes no apology for taking compliance action against people who break the rules because they believe they are influencers,” he said.

Images supplied by the Department of Environment (DES) show separate incidents of illegal behaviour inside restricted zones. In one instance, a woman was fined after a QPWS review of Instagram posts taken at the site determined she’d broken the law. Another picture shows a boy posing in front of the rock art — his parents were fined for the breach.

This boy's parents were fined over this photograph. Source: DES/Supplied
This boy's parents were fined over this photograph. Source: DES/Supplied

Indigenous leaders say tourists showing 'utmost disrespect'

Bidjara representative Leah Wyman said the images provide valuable information about the history of her people. “They are also important spiritual and ceremonial sites to us, and it is imperative that everyone stays on the walkways,” he said.

Other Indigenous people around the world have closed their cultural sites to stop them being destroyed and Bidjara representative Kristine Sloman said it would be a “great shame” if her people had to do the same.

“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,” she said.

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Mining responsible for rock art damage in Australia

Elsewhere in Australia, multinational mining companies continue to destroy Indigenous cultural sites.

Last year, environment minister Tanya Plibersek described Rio Tinto's detonation of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge caves as "a shameful moment in Australia's history".

In the Pilbara, academics and cultural leaders have raised concerns that gas drilling and other heavy industry projects, like a proposed fertiliser plant, risk eroding the Earth's largest and oldest collection of Aboriginal rock art at risk.

Two Murujuga women flew to Geneva last year to address the United Nations, warning Australia was committing "cultural genocide" by continuing to approve projects around the Burrup Peninsular.

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