Don’t bulldoze Aboriginal heritage: save the Butterfly Cave
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The Butterfly Cave is incredibly important to Awabakal women and the wider Aboriginal community - but a giant property developer called Roche Group want to destroy thousands of years of Aboriginal women’s history by building a massive housing development only 20 metres away.
It’s heartbreaking - the construction will damage our fragile cave and we are desperate to save our sanctuary.
If Roche Group is permitted to proceed with their housing development, construction will obliterate the journey path to the Cave and destroy the bushland that is a source of spiritual and physical sustenance.
On top of that, Roche Group is demanding women seek permission from them before visiting the site and a manager has threatened us with trespassing for continuing to go into the Butterfly Cave. In the past this manager has spied on us and we find Roche Group’s demands offensive and degrading.
The Cave is incredibly special to Aboriginal women. Generations of women have treasured this spiritual place and it continues to be a place of connection and cultural activity to this day.
Awabakal women have been urging Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to intervene to save this precious site, but she has ignored our pleas and will not even meet with us.
The NSW Government and Lake Macquarie City Council planners couldn’t care less about Aboriginal women’s culture and history and plan to wipe out this most sacred and special place with the flick of their pen.
So what are we asking for? What will make ALL the difference? We are asking Minister Upton to increase the 20m buffer zone to 100m. A small change, a monumental difference.
Please join us as we fight to save our beautiful, sacred site.
- Roche Group - Bill & Imelda & family
- Dominic Roche
- Mr Damian Roche
- Minister for Environment & Heritage
Minister Gabrielle Upton
- Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Minister Sarah Mitchell
Dear Mr Bill Roche, Mrs Imelda Roche, Damian Roche and Dominic Roche of Roche Group
Many years ago you purchased land near the village of West Wallsend – land that you are extensively developing with housing estates and a shopping centre.
For a number of years Awabakal people and the wider community have expressed concern that your Appletree Grove Estate housing development would have a devastating impact on the environment and the Aboriginal and European heritage of West Wallsend.
However, instead of consulting with the community you chose to steamroll through our bushland and – with the support of Lake Macquarie City Council and the NSW Government – have obliterated hundreds of hectares of native bush, poured tonnes of fill into gullies, displaced wildlife and now your bulldozers and earthmovers are moving painfully close to our precious Awakabal women’s place: the Butterfly Cave.
This petition has amassed an astonishing number of signatures and the comments have been clear and forceful: what you are proposing to do – that is, build roads and houses 20m from a sacred women’s site – is offensive, disrespectful and demonstrative of a total lack of cultural empathy.
The fact that your proposal has been rubber-stamped by a Government department and supported by planners at a local council does not lend it credibility—in fact it simply increases the argument that a more robust legislative framework needs to be implemented to protect Australian sacred sites.
Of course you are aware of the impacts your profit-driven project is having on the bushland around the Cave. You know it will destroy the songline* journey that women have travelled for thousands of years and prevent women from engaging in cultural practice.
Of course you are aware that the Cave may not withstand the impact of construction vibration and changes during the clearing and filling of nearby gullies. You know that if the Cave is damaged it will cause enormous hurt and guilt for Aboriginal people.
In the past the destruction inflicted on the Aboriginal cultural landscape was driven by ignorance. Now we have no such excuse.
If you do not remove Stage 7 and Stage 9 of the Appletree Grove Estate – being the two stages of bushland that embrace the Butterfly Cave – you are engaging in ethnocide.
There can be no other way to view it.
Once again we ask you: is the pursuit of money worth what we will lose? All Australians will be diminished by the loss of this sacred site—but Awabakal women will suffer the most.
Is this what you want?
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