CLIMBING instructor Tori Dunn has accused Parks Victoria of "intimidating" and "unlawful" behaviour, as the saga around rock climbing bans in the Grampians National Park continues.
Ms Dunn, who lives at Brimpaen and has run the Grampians Mountain Adventure Company since 2000, said Parks Victoria told her on Wednesday that she was no longer welcome to go into Summer Day Valley until mediation with Traditional Owners had occurred.
She said she proceeded to take a Kyabram school group climbing in the Valley on Thursday. She said rangers did not stop her plans.
"At such short notice I wasn't able to arrange another staff member, so that was appreciated," she said.
"Perhaps Parks felt thy were overreaching a little bit. I am not opposed to mediation, while it feels like I'm being intimidated to an extent I'm happy to sit with TOs and hear their concerns in the spirit of mutual understanding."
Parks Victoria announced in February that it would start more strictly enforcing restrictions on climbing in eight "Special Protection Areas" in the Grampians National Park, while allowing 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.
Parks Victoria's latest licence extension gives tour operators access to Summer Day Valley until March.
Ms Dunn said one of the conditions was that the operators undertake a "cultural heritage induction" so they recognised what was significant in the area.
"These inductions still haven't happened and we're five months into this period of special access," she said.
Ms Dunn said a Parks Victoria manager phoned her on Tuesday to tell her sessions on Monday and Friday had been cancelled due to a death in the Aboriginal community. She said they phoned her again on Wednesday, saying Traditional Owner groups wanted to have a mediation session with her before she could sit an induction.
"This was a real slap in the face. I asked why I was being singled out for mediation. The best she could provide me was I had upset the groups with Facebook comments," she said.
"(The comment) essentially said climbers feel a connection to country... just as traditional cultures have a valid connection.
"I haven't been doing much guiding anyway - I've tried to farm out guiding to staff because it's taken a heavy toll on me, all of these bans. But (on Thursday) I had no choice.
"I'm understaffed and I fully intended to show up - I've got a legal document from Parks Victoria which allows me access, and (the manager) gives me a phone call saying I'm no longer welcome in the public lands my tax dollars pay for - it's highly irregular."
Ms Dunn said she had contacted Member for Lowan Emma Kealy and had submitted a freedom of information request to Parks Victoria on all information relating to the cultural heritage permits.
She said she had met Traditional Owners at Summer Day Valley.
A Parks Victoria spokesman confirmed Traditional Owners had raised concerns about disrespectful comments made towards them by some members of the rock climbing community on social media.
"Though no ban is in place on this operator, it is the wishes of Traditional Owner groups that they meet to respectfully address some of the concerns raised before their cultural induction can take place," he said.
"Traditional Owners have made it clear that they seek an open, respectful and balanced discussion for all parties as we work to find a way forward. As the land manager engaging with multiple partners and stakeholders on how the Grampians National Park is both protected, conserved and enjoyed, this is a step we support.
"Cultural heritage inductions for all other licensed tour operators in Summerday Valley will take place over the coming weeks. As part of the licence conditions to operate in Summerday Valley, all licensed tour operators must complete a cultural heritage induction, led by Gariwerd Traditional Owners."
Parks Victoria has not cancelled Ms Dunn's licence and has not provided her with copies of the social media commentary.
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