Stop the desecration of Brewarrina’s ancient fish traps

Ngemba sacred fish traps

Brewarrina’s sacred fish traps are world famous. Known as the Ngemba sacred fish traps, they are described as the oldest man made structures in the world.

Local Ngemba people are custodians of the fish traps.

Placed on the National Heritage register in 2005, the Ngemba sacred fish traps are described as ‘exceptionally rare, highly innovative Aboriginal technology, efficient for catching fish with dry wall construction techniques, river hydrology and fish ecology.’

The Heritage register notes the fisheries are ‘the largest trap recorded.’ There is momentum to place the fisheries on the World Heritage list.

Yet, on Monday the 12th of July, 2021 the federal Minister for Resources, Water and the Northern Territory, Keith Pitt and entourage launched a large viewing platform, yarning circle and walkway project over the Ngemba sacred fish traps. A yarning circle is a traditional structure where first nations people gather and share stories.

The project’s rollout has taken place without consulting key local traditional elders.

Now, culturally inappropriate stones from Queensland form a large ‘yarning’ circle on the river bank. A new, large viewing platform dominates the lookout, protruding over the Barwon river.

On Monday July 12, the politicians announced a $920,000 federal government grant for the yarning circle, viewing platform, suspended pedestrian outlook, and a 2.4 kilometre path.

Local Ngemba Community Working Group Chair and spokesperson, Grace Gordon explains, ‘the fish traps are the oldest ancient man made structure in the world and need to be respected.’

Ngemba Community Working Group Vice-Chair Doreen McHughes said 'the rocks they are using are from Queensland. This is desecration. We can only have rocks from this area on the sacred site. Then they build a platform, with no consultation with elders. We know they are planning to build a walkway over the top of the fish traps. They say it will be good for the elders because they will be able to see from the top. But the elders know what it looks like. We’ve seen the fish traps from all sides.’

The Ngemba Community Working Group is calling for

1. An immediate halt to any further works on The Fish Traps, Ochre beds and burial grounds.
2. Remove the Queensland rocks from the sacred site on the riverbank.
3. Remove the Queensland rocks from the pool and from within the school.
4. Remove the new viewing platform.
5. Halt any work on the walkway.

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