On 1 October, the Calga Aboriginal Cultural Landscape was recognised for its significance by being listed on the New South Wales Heritage Register. Speaking at an emotional ceremony at Calga, New South Wales Aboriginal Affairs and Heritage Minister, Don Harwin, announced the heritage listing. Minister Harwin acknowledged the exceptional social and spiritual importance of the Calga Women’s Site and its associated cultural landscape to Aboriginal people as the sacred birthplace of the creation deity, the emu-man Daramulan.
“I’m delighted that the Calga Aboriginal Cultural Landscape will be heritage protected as this remarkable site is such a sacred place for our First Nations people, particularly Darkinjung, Guringai and Mingaletta communities,” Mr Harwin said.
“This landscape is particularly revered by Aboriginal women as a link to their ancestors as well as a key resource for teaching future generations of Aboriginal children, particularly girls, about their culture and spirituality”.
MLC for the Central Coast and Hunter, Taylor Martin, agreed, saying: “Calga is a place of Law and ceremony and includes shared spaces for groups to gather and special gender-restricted areas for traditional ceremony by women
Wiradjuri woman and Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) member, Sharon Hodgetts, who helped save the site, was overwhelmed by the announcement: “Finally my obligation as an Aboriginal woman … can start to be fullfilled and I can start to do my role for my grandchildren, my granddaughters and for other girls to give them their culture. It’s a healing place for Aboriginal people … and everybody … it’s all about giving and sharing and loving.”
Tracey Howie, Cultural Heritage Officer at Guringai Tribal Link Aboriginal Corporation, Traditional Owner, and AAA member, said she was lost for words after a 15-year battle drew to an end. “[I’m] ecstatic, absolutely ecstatic,” she told NITV News. “Words really can’t explain the relief from such a hard battle … and we overcame them all and we came together and the Aboriginal community has come together and we have united as one and we’ve been successful,” she said.
Annie Ross, a AAA member and one of the archaeologists who worked with the Aboriginal community in developing arguments regarding the significance of the landscape, was also delighted by the announcement. “The Calga Aboriginal Cultural Landscape is unarguably one of the most significant cultural landscapes anywhere in Australia” she said. The landscape brings archaeological evidence, oral history and ethnohistorical data together to produce a consistent and seamless narrative of heritage value. There are elements in the landscape that are unique in Sydney rock art. The associated totemic depictions in the many rock art sites in the landscape, the ceremonial sites, the resource areas, and the occupation sites all come together to tell a story of strong and ongoing connection to country”.
Following the announcement, members of the Aboriginal community performed a number of dances for the attendees.