Murujuga's engravings under threat from industrial fumes

Murujuga's engravings under threat from industrial fumes

Re "Rock paintings a clue", (Letters, December 11).

I'm still not sure exactly what John Reaney intended when he wrote "There needs to be an acceptance that modern science is not necessarily the ultimate decider of the truth".

Jakari Togo, a senior cultural ranger at Murujuga National Park, looks out to sea next to rock carvings on the Burrup Peninsula.

Jakari Togo, a senior cultural ranger at Murujuga National Park, looks out to sea next to rock carvings on the Burrup Peninsula.Credit:Australian Geographic

The best example of how science and Indigenous rock art work together to reveal truth is in Murujuga National Park in Western Australia, which most people only know as Burrup Peninsula (near Karratha and Dampier). The people who made the art engravings began some 40,000 years ago and finished in 1858, when they were nearly all killed by European invaders.

Their nearest relations, the Ngarluma people, now manage Murujuga as best they can. The descendants of the invaders now operate huge offshore gas and other chemical industries on Burrup, producing fumes that damage the art irreparably.


Scientific studies explain that the rock, which is unusual and endemic to that area, naturally forms a hard coating (or patina) of largely organic material. It is dark in colour, and the Aboriginal people discovered that the rock beneath is almost white. So their art works, numbering around 1 million, were made by hammering or scraping through the patina, producing images ranging from the most ancient depiction of human faces on Earth through realistic images of animals, as well as abstract images of all kinds.

The animal pictures in the oldest art are only of land animals (including many which are now extinct). After the sea level rose the people began picturing sea animals as well. Science tells us that this was about 19,000 years ago as the last ice age began warming.

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Science, done largely in the last decade, can estimate how old each engraving is. Patina forms on the rock at a known rate. A white image is recent. A reddish coloured image is older, as the patina that was removed has partially re-formed. A very dark image, where the patina has regrown back to the original state, is the oldest – like some of those faces.

These are around 40,000 years old – older than the cave paintings in Europe. John Reaney should be pleased to know that the WA government has recently nominated Murujuga for UN World Heritage listing; but the damage to the rock patina by industry, which scientists have also measured, will be a threat. The ultimate decider of the future of Murujuga will not be the science, nor the Indigenous people with the longest continuous culture on Earth, but the Australian government, and in particular the Minister for Environment and Heritage, currently Melissa Price, who has carriage of the World Heritage nomination process.

Frank McKone, Holt

Medivac plan flawed

If, under Labor, medivac to Australia for refugees held on Manus and Narau becomes the norm then one thing is guaranteed, a new rush of boats where most of the individuals and at least one person within a family group will have an obvious disability that will require treatment in Australia. I'm sorry, but stupidity will trump compassion.

Roger Dace, Reid

Convenience? A joke

The headline on Bree Element's article — 'Yes, it's coffee from a drone etc' (December 10, p10) caught my eye.

Gee, I thought, I must get a coffee and read this. So I went to the kitchen, boiled the kettle, added the bubbling water to the fresh grounds in the drip filter, poured the rich brew into a cup, and sat down to read. Time: maybe four minutes. Cost of ingredients: 50 cents, at most. Ready to drink, and no new app to clutter our lives, no need for a remote order, no barista, no $5.30 cost, no waiting, no drone, no "high-pitched whirring" (ie, noise), no hanging around in the driveway, no wasteful packaging, no throwaway cup ... So where's the convenience?

Peter Fuller, Chifley

NZ option sounds good

I refer to L. Summerville's letter (December 11) suggesting we should outsource the running of our government to NZ.

Considering the instability, turmoil, back stabbing and non-governing our current so-called politicians are inflicting on the population it sounds like a mighty fine idea.

And considering this government is keen on outsourcing every department they feel fit to, to supposedly save money including Centrelink call centres etc. why not the government?

Would save taxpayers lots of money.

The NZ Parliament is doing wonders compared to ours.

P. Nicolls, Monash

Bring back the stars

The unexpected poor show by Tim Paine's boys in the Adelaide Test against India has surely posed a challenge to the selection committee.

The gallant fightback by the tail enders Pat Cummins (28), Mitchel Starc (28) and Nathan Lyon (38 n.o. and 122-6) proved futile to lose by 31 runs.

It is high time Cricket Australia reversed its decision to ban the stalwarts Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft as all of them are away from the international cricket for a considerable period and should be called back immediately.

It's the need of the hour.

Anil R. Torne, Pune, India

Radiology woes

The poor service provided in the radiology department in Canberra Hospital, reported in The Canberra Times on September 14, has been further highlighted by the reports on December 11 of complaints by clinical heads in Canberra Hospital.

A review by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists resulted in the department losing its accreditation for training medical registrars in radiology. A particular problem is the sending of CT scans off site and overseas for reporting.

This situation could be greatly improved by letting Visiting Medical Officer radiologists back into the department, thus restoring the ability for medical specialists to discuss CT scans with the reporting radiologist and to compare with previous scans.

P. Hughes, president, ACT Visiting Medical Officers Association, Curtin

Save Wig & Pen

It was with surprise and concern that I learnt of the situation regarding the Wig & Pen Tavern & Brewery at Llewellyn Hall at the ANU and formerly in Alinga Street, Canberra City.

I have no connection with the business, except as a customer who has always enjoyed visiting and tasting a wonderful range of craft beers in a pleasant setting.

The Wig & Pen was Canberra's first craft brewery almost 25 years ago and one of the best in Australia.

While I understand the owner's desire at age 67 to retire, I hope a new owner continues the Wig & Pen's tradition of fine craft beers with the support of Canberra beer drinkers and foodies and the ANU to keep the Wig & Pen where it is.

David Cummins, Kambah

Odd ocean patrol plan

According to the report "Border Force to pull ships from ocean patrols" (December 12, p1 & p4), the Morrison government plans to withdraw ships from patrol duty, using the justification that this will save money in the period before the April budget.

According to the report, Australian Border Force insiders are concerned that the removal of "about a dozen" ships from patrol duty, mostly in waters off Australia's north-west coast, will harm maritime security.

These "insiders" are quite right: our north-western waters are, purely coincidentally of course, the area which has seen the approach of the large majority of people-smuggler boats.

Surely the Morrison government wouldn't be so desperate and Machiavellian as to encourage people smugglers, giving it a big stick with which to beat Labor about the head over its policy on asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. Or would it?

Douglas Mackenzie, Deakin

Vegan: what's in a word?

Thanks to the CT for its article, "Why plant-based is more palatable than vegan" (, December 4).

It is worth making a few more points about the meaning of "vegan".

The word was coined about 70 years ago. Because eggs and dairy products do not require animals to be killed, many vegetarians still eat these foods. The vegetarians who eat only plant products wanted their own word.

Over the last 70 years, the public have learned that commercial layer hens are forced to live short lives in barbaric housing systems, baby roosters are slaughtered in their millions, and baby calves are wrested from their distraught mothers and killed so that humans can use all the milk. Consequently, many former egg and dairy-eating vegetarians now try to be vegan.

I say "try" because even a vegan diet in today's society is far from cruelty-free. In plant agriculture, as in animal agriculture, water is hijacked, habitat destroyed, "pests" shot or poisoned or killed in harvesting operations.

There is, however, another reason, even more compelling than direct animal suffering, for ending our global consumption of animal products and increasing our consumption of plant products.

We now know that animal agriculture, more even than fossil fuel use, is killing our planet, through a combination of livestock greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of greenhouse gas sinks. If changing one word will help humanity transition away from animal agriculture, so that the planet can survive, it is a change that cannot come too soon.

Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan, NSW

ATAR isn't everything

It was quite refreshing to read the article "What happens if you don't get a high ATAR?" ( As a teacher in the ACT public education system for over 30 years at three high schools and five colleges, I support wholeheartedly the success of the students mentioned in this article.

It is reflective of the quality education that is provided by both government and non-government schools in the ACT. The universal focus of schools in the ACT is to prepare students for all opportunities.

The ATAR system was established by universities to select students for its courses and is applied in all states — which immediately suggests a problem as all state systems are not equal.

The ACT system has a clear record of preparing students for a tertiary education better than any other jurisdiction.

But it also has an unequalled record for preparing students for other destinations, careers and opportunities.

There should be more celebration of those students who develop careers in retail, real estate, trades, business and enterprise. A university degree only indicates you can follow a pursuit for four years. Many graduates do not gain employment in their chosen field. A student who leaves year 12 and follows a career in retail, for example, might be managing the shop in four years.

A well respected and rewarding position. This might provide a great record for moving into other careers such as the public service, for example.

Steve Provins, Latham

ACTPLA needs to listen

Thanks Daniel Burdon for your article: "Design Review Panel urged ACTPLA to reject proposed Manuka hotel" (, December 12).

It should be noted that it is a mandatory requirement of the National Capital Authority's Development Control Plan for Manuka Circle that "Redevelopment proposals must be considered by a joint NCA/ACT Government Design Review Panel prior to being approved by the Territory planning authority."

For ACTPLA to suggest it could ignore the recommendations of this high-level panel (ACT government architect, NCA chief planner etc) because this was "not a formal referring entity" is the ultimate in bureaucratic box-ticking and beyond absurd.

ACTPLA apparently also based its decision to approve the redevelopment on information provided by the developer that "the tree's roots were damaging infrastructure". Even if that is true the Conservator of Flora and Fauna can only cancel the registration of a tree if "the tree is shown to be causing substantial damage to a substantial building, structure or service that will require ongoing and extensive remediation measures" and even then "if all reasonable remedial treatments and risk mitigation measures to avoid or minimise the risk presented or damage caused by the tree have been determined to be ineffective" (DI2018-50). There is no evidence that any action has been taken by the developer or the ACT government in this regard.

Richard Johnston, Kingston

Dangerous platforms

I am concerned at the narrow platforms at the light rail stops. At bus stops people can spread out over the pavement, but the tram stops are in the middle of the road, which could be very dangerous when there is a crowd, including strollers, wheelchairs and bikes.

Angela Plant, Franklin



Stan Marks (Letters, December 12) should familiarise himself with the overtaking rule regarding cyclists and double white lines to avoid the problem of the stream of cars queuing up behind him.

The rule states that you can cross the double line provided it is safe to do so.

Byam Wight, Griffith


Perhaps Stan Marks' complaint about bicycles not staying on the road shoulder might be better directed to those who deliberately smash bottles there (Letters, December 12).

Ian Douglas, Jerrabomberra


Project Wing don't seem to know our community very well. They are seriously misguided if they think the majority of Canberrans will give up the peace and quiet of their beautiful bush capital for the so-called benefits of noisy, invasive delivery drones.

I. Kolak, Bonython


With the current concerns regarding obesity in children I feel we should discourage deliveries of coffee/fast food by drones and walk to the local shops to purchase said items. Let's set a good example by getting off our backsides and boycotting drone deliveries.

Nick Corby, Hawker


Ken Taylor ("Does Canberra risk rewriting the dark side of history?", December 10, p.14) has thrown a revealing light on the absurdity of Bec Cody's renaming push.

She would sanitise our history by erasing the names of flawed actors.

Perhaps Bec should join the rest of us in a bewildering and complex world.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie


After the latest drug death at a dance concert in Sydney, it's time to repeat the mantras. Police cannot stop the illegal drugs. Police cannot stop the deaths. Pill testers have a better record. Prohibition doesn't work. Politicians are to blame. Why do we keep doing the same thing while expecting a different outcome?

G. Wilson, Macgregor


Due to the utter incompetence of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, there is a shortage of immigration staff for the Christmas rush, and there is no fuel for border patrol boats, the government's signature policy. And he has the hide to blame the Labor Party.

Richard Keys, Ainslie


Gina Rinehart may not like being referred to as an "heiress" ("Gina Rinehart: 'Don't call me an heiress',, December 8), but she shouldn't be too precious about it as that's possibly the least offensive term that comes to mind.

James Allan, Narrabundah

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