Aboriginal call for crackdown on climbing Mt Warning
THE Tweed's aboriginal community is calling for a crackdown on climbers trekking up Mt Warning in the wake of the tragic death of an American tourist on the sacred indigenous summit this week.
Sam Beattie, 24, died while camping on the summit of Mt Warning - traditionally called Wollumbin by the aboriginal community - after he was hit by lightning during a storm early Tuesday morning.
His girlfriend Michele Segalla, 23, suffered shock and neck injuries in the strike.
Under traditional culture, Wollumbin is considered a sacred men's site and people are discouraged from climbing the mountain, with a sign to that effect at the base of the hike.
Tweed Shire Council indigenous heritage officer Rob Appo said aboriginal people felt a great sense of responsibility when injuries occurred.
He said Wollumbin/Mt Warning was a one of two places of very high cultural significance in the Tweed for the Bundjalung people, with Ukerabagh Island off Boyd's Bay at Tweed Heads the other.
"The aboriginal community feels a great deal of responsibility to what happens to people who get injured on those sites without the guidance of an aboriginal person or aboriginal community members," Mr Appo told ABC Radio.
"I'm always a big advocate for an aboriginal rangers program and having a visible indigenous presence on the mountain itself.
"You have to understand that aboriginal people get very emotional about people that get into trouble at these cultural sites because we know the significance of those sites.
"It's a shame each year that many people get into trouble on the mountain for a number of different reasons."
Mr Appo said an aboriginal ranger program being run at Uluru, which not only prevents climbing and damage to the iconic rock but teaches visitors about the cultural significance of the site, would be an ideal way of protecting the mountain.
"The problem will always be the funding; finding the funding for that," he said.
"I'm always a big advocate for an aboriginal rangers program. At this stage there isn't really any option yet in regards to funding programs of that sort."
More than 100,000 people climb the mountain each year despite signage at the base of Wollumbin/Mt Warning making it clear the aboriginal community's views on climbing.
"There is information out there and info on the web and even through to car park and base of Wollumbin. It's quite clear the cultural significance it has for aboriginal people," Mr Appo said.
"I'd suggest to anyone going into a different culture or different cultural area of significance, you (should) inform yourself of those sensitivities.
"We don't accept people just climbing to the top of Sydney Opera House for instance or the Sydney Harbour Bridge; it's all done in a very controlled way.
"It's a little bit sad that's not extended to aboriginal cultural sites that have significance."