West Wallsend Butterfly Cave

I speak once again in the House about the Butterfly Cave. In part, that will bring me to a point I want to make about Parramatta. The Butterfly Cave, which is a beautiful, sacred Aboriginal site, celebrates more than 35,000 years of Aboriginal cultural tradition and history. Importantly and significantly, it is an Aboriginal women’s place. In fact, it was the first Aboriginal women’s place dedicated and recognised in New South Wales and it is one of only two that exist today. Over the past five or six years, I have spoken in this Chamber about the Aboriginal Butterfly Cave in an effort to save the Butterfly Cave from the developers.

The Butterfly Cave is still used by the local Aboriginal community for Sista Speak, which is about introducing young Aboriginal women to their traditions and cultures. They do this in a natural cave nestled amongst the bushland at West Wallsend, and they have done so, it seems continuously, for some 35,000 years. I bring the House’s attention to an online petition that has recently ticked over the 80,000 supporter mark. That means there are 80,000 people out there who care enough about the Butterfly Cave to sign the online petition.

I also draw the attention of the House to the online fundraising campaign on GoFundMe to help save the Butterfly Cave. The campaign was placed online 21 days ago. I checked before coming to the Chamber and it is currently at $24,853. So it has almost reached its target of $25,000.

That could be celebrated but, sadly, the money will essentially be used to pay legal fees for something that governments of any political persuasion should be doing. Governments have a responsibility to protect and preserve our Aboriginal culture. In this country we are very good at preserving white Anglo-Saxon, post-convict heritage and culture. The member for Parramatta is seated at the table. A few weeks ago funding of $310 million was announced to save white Anglo-Saxon sites at Parramatta that are 230 years old, yet we cannot find a single cent to save an Aboriginal site that is 35,000 years old. Not only is it one of a small number but it is also unique. The cost of saving the Aboriginal Butterfly Cave at West Wallsend is estimated at $2 million or less. That is an appalling reflection on the white Anglo-Saxon society that continues to reign as the ruling class in Australia.

We seek to close the gap and to come closer together as brothers and sisters of various nationalities, heritages, histories and backgrounds. We also frequently identify that our Aboriginal peoples are not doing as well as the rest of the population, that we should do more to support them and that we need to come together. In 2017 we are able to find $310 million for white Anglo-Saxon heritage but not a cent for Aboriginal heritage. Interestingly, Aboriginal heritage is still governed by the national parks and wildlife legislation; white Anglo‑Saxon heritage is governed by the New South Wales Heritage Act. We are still to get that right too. This year marks 50 years since the 1967 referendum when 90 per cent of people in Australia sought to recognise our Aboriginal peoples. Earlier today there was even a group of people in this Chamber to celebrate that occasion. The greatest disappointment for me in this year’s budget was the absence of funding to recognise Aboriginal heritage and culture.