Australia’s Wollumbin National Park, also known as Mount Warning, is now facing some backlash over plans to ban a woman from access.
According to the New York Post, the Australian national park is causing an uproar among local Indigenous women over the potential banning. They refer to the plans as being discriminatory. The issue is that Wollumbin Mountain within the park was declared an Aboriginal Place above 2000 feet to the summit by the New South Wales government in 2014. This was to protect its cultural values and formally recognize it as a place of special significance to Aboriginal people.
The national park’s summit trek has been closed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Minister for Environment James Griffin announced last month that the trek will be closed off to the public permanently. Griffin stated that the future of the park was being guided by the Wollumbin Consultative Group.
This organization “represents” a range of Aboriginal groups and families with a connection to the site. In the new Wollumbin Aboriginal Place Management Plan, the whole of the mountain is considered a “men’s” site. The plan reads, “Therefore gender restrictions apply to working on or visiting the Wollumbin Mountain.”
The plan does reveal that there are “several” women’s sites associated with the Wollumbin Aboriginal Place. These are “integral” to its cultural value. However, it does note that the “sanctity” of Wollumbin Aboriginal Place “may also manifest physically.”
Examples of this include making people sick or putting women in “physical danger.”
Women Speak Out Against the Male-Only Gender Restrictions in Wollumbin National Park
While responding to the explanation of separate gender spaces in the national park, local Ngarakbal Githabul women stated placing male-only gender restrictions on the site, as proposed in the plan, would “dispossess” Indigenous women with deep spiritual connections to the area. Stella Wheildon, a north coast Indigenous woman, also stated that the area does contain scared female sites as well. “The Wollumbin Consultative Group has discriminated against the women and our lores.”
Wheildon explained that Ngarakbal Githabul women fear the ban would impact their access to sacred Rainbow Serpent Seven Sisters sites. This is a small ledge on the northern slope of the mountain. Elder Elizabeth Davis Boyd revealed that plans would restrict her from being able to visit her mother Marlene Boyd’s memorial.
Boyd then declared that calling Mount Warning a “Bundjalung men’s site” was incorrect. It is also doing “great damage” to her ancestral culture, tradition, and lores. “The State Government’s administrative decision to permanently close Mount Warning not only contravenes my customary law rights and women’s rights and human rights – but also my cultural responsibilities to the Gulgan (a Ngarakbal Githabul word for pathway keeper) memorial.”
Boyd added the Ngarakbal Githabul women are not included in the consultation process regarding access to Wollumbin National Park.