CONCERNS over the future of rockclimbing in the Grampians National Park and Mount Arapiles have prompted climbers to form a new group.
The Gariwerd Wimmera Reconciliation Network seeks to establish positive and lasting relationships with Traditional Owners in the park.
In February, Parks Victoria announced it would start more strictly enforcing restrictions on climbing in eight "Special Protection Areas" in the Grampians.
It has allowed licensed tour operators to continue taking people climbing in Summer Day Valley.
The action followed concerns rock climbing was having a negative impact on indigenous rock art sites and endangered species.
Claire Evans, a climber who lives just outside Halls Gap, said the group's founding members shared a realisation that a "crucial conversation" wasn't happening.
"Initially we spoke to individuals through our own personal networks, and we wrote a letter to Traditional Owner groups about four months ago," she said. "We wanted to open lines of communication with them and ask if they were interested in having a broader conversation."
Ms Evans said the group wanted to understand the hurt and the harm that had been caused.
"There is obviously a healing process that needs to happen here as well," she said.
"We've had preliminary conversations with the three Traditional Owner groups (Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Eastern Maar and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation), asking how we engage and how this group can be part of those conversations, and yeah really starting to understand where we fit into this piece.
"We very quickly realised this whole issue is just one part of a much bigger conversation we need to have within the broader community. Conversations about reconciliation, listening, learning and respect. Our perspective is very much on reconciliation more broadly and having those conversations and working towards a shared vision of the future."
Another member of the network, Kieran Loughran, of Natimuk, said the group was asking for people to be more respectful of Traditional Owners and their interests in Gariwerd - the name given to the Grampians by Traditional Owners.
"We're not coming at it from the point of view of saying we're after climbing access, it's how can we have a relationship between climbing and traditional owners and how they see that," he said.
"The main focus is sitting down with Traditional Owners and listening to what they want. Ultimately it's their cultural heritage. A lot of the conversation so far has been around what climbers want or what Parks Victoria wants."
Barengi Gadjin Land Council chief executive Michael Stewart praised the group for asking his organisation how it would like to be engaged, "something that doesn't happen enough".
He said the early discussions had focused on the reconciliation network addressing the organisation's concerns and acknowledging the past.
"We are having these conversations with them to help them go through the process of formalising as a group and establishing other priorities with the three Traditional Owner groups," he said.
"People in the broader community who want to understand should reach out to the group to understand its purposes. It's still too early to make any larger statements.
"BGLC looks forward to continuing discussions with the network to build a strong and respectful relationship."
Easter Maar Aboriginal Corporation's chief executive Jason Mifsud also welcomed the network's formation.
"We have been very clear about damage that has been (done), and it is not exclusively the fault of rock climbing community: governments have been allowing it to happen for 20 to 30 decades," he said.
"The primary objective of Traditional Owners is to protect cultural heritage, not stop climbing. Where it (cultural heritage) won't be harmed, we will find a way forward."
"We need understanding and a willingness to respect the cultural values of the Grampians. Everybody's in this together putting it at (rock climbers') feet is somewhat unfair. There is a new watermark for what this relationship looks like going forward."
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