Hollow Words – PV Ignores Tourist Damage at Aboriginal Site

If you tuned into Park Victoria “webnair” last night you would have experienced a cavalcade of questions regarding tourists at Hollow Mountain. We hope this primer helps answer a few questions on what it is all about.

What is the problem?

Parks Victoria allows tourists to damage Aboriginal sites at Hollow Mountain Special Protection Area. PV denies knowledge of the problem and refuses to close area to tourists despite closing numerous climbing sites for the same reason. This proves PV’s vendetta against climbers.

What is Hollow Mountain?

Hollow Mountain is the top end of Mt Stapylton (the same rock formation as Taipan Wall) and is located in the far north of the Grampians National Park. It is an area of caves, cliffs and lookouts visited by thousands of tourists a year via an approved and constructed trail built by Parks Victoria. It would probably be the most popular tourist walking track outside of the Halls Gap area and is heavily used by tour bus companies and school groups. There is sometimes a literal conga line of backpackers making their way up to the summit on sunrise or sunset.

Tourists getting touchy feely with Hollow Mountain

You can find official info about the walk up to Hollow Mountain on the website of Parks Victoria, Visit Grampians and even the Victorian State government official tourist website Visit Victoria. #hollowmountain on Instagram features almost 3000 photographs of the area.

Rock climbing is banned – but tourists are all over the rocks.

Hollow Mountain sits entirely inside a Special Protection Area (SPA) that was put in place in 2003 . This SPA lists rockclimbing and absieling as “not appropriate“. However it is not hard to find photos on social media of tourists crawling, climbing and standing in caves and on top of cliffs at Hollow Mountain.

Tourists and websites describe the experience as “climbing”

Scrolling through Tripadvisor reviews and the phrases “climbing” and “rock climbing” are often used by tourists to describe the way they get to the summit of Hollow Mountain.

Tripadvisor reviews of Hollow Mountain

Even the governments own tourist website describes it as a “climb”

“The track leads you to the base of an iron-stained cliff. It’s a steep and strenuous climb through fallen boulders and along exposed ledges. A short uphill scramble completes the climb to the wind-scoured caverns of Wudjub-guyan (Hollow Mountain) with views overlooking Mount Stapylton and the Wimmera plains. “

Quote from Visit Victoria’s website

Tourists are damaging Aboriginal art and quarries at Hollow Mountain

These sanctioned summiteers are indiscriminately and directly damaging rock art and rock tool quarries at Hollow Mountain area on a regular basis.

Tourists walking straight over a stone tool rock quarry

An infamous 2016 spray paint incident was so bad it was covered in the mainstream press – read articles about it here and here. This is not potential damage – this is very real.

Parks Victoria has refused to act despite previous recorded incident in 2016 and being informed of new damage in 2019

The ACAV first informed Parks Victoria on October 4th 2019 about damage to cultural heritage by tourists at Hollow Mountain in a face to face meeting with PV COO Simon Talbot (MIA?) and PV Head of Planning Stuart Hughes. Subsequent written correspondence to PV from members of the public about this damage has been largely ignored or brushed off with a “We will get back to you on this“. A year has passed since Parks Victoria was made aware of the problem and nothing has been done.

Parks Victoria denies knowledge about Aboriginal cultural heritage in the area

In Tuesday night’s Park Victoria “online event” Will Cox (Senior Manager Strategic Projects) denied knowledge of Aboriginal cultural heritage in the Hollow Mountain area when questioned. He informed the audience that they would have to investigate the claims put to them about damage to cultural heritage in this location. He acted as if they didn’t know anything about it. Other questions related to this topic were ignored by the moderator.

Their claim is bollux. PV knows all about cultural heritage at Hollow Mountain – they banned climbers because of it!

Remember PV’s claim of no knowledge is a full year after ACAV informed them about new damage and four years since the spray paint episode where PV was quoted in the newspaper as saying “graffiti has been found on a shelf at Hollow Mountain in the Grampians, only 100 metres from a significant Aboriginal cultural heritage site. They certainly knew about cultural heritage in Hollow Mountain in 2016.

But there are plenty of other reasons they know and just don’t want to admit there is a problem brewing in allowing tourists to wander and climb at around Hollow Mountain rock face and caves.

Their own 2003 Grampians Management Plan lists the Hollow Mountain SPA as an “aboriginal site”. This is the very reason why they say they can ban climbing at Hollow Mountain – it’s in the plan!

In a 2016 Rock Climbing and Bouldering Update document published by Parks Victoria after a series of major bushfires – they list Hollow Mountain climbing areas as “OPEN” but also says it is a “significant site for Aboriginal people“.

In a document issued to the Rock Climbing Roundtable earlier this year, Parks Victoria lists a Cultural Heritage assessment as having been conducted at Hollow Mountain. After this assessment the area remains closed to climbers.

Why doesn’t Parks Victoria close Hollow Mountain to all as a precautionary measure?

They seem happy to close off nearby Taipan Wall and huge sections of Arapiles to everyone as some sort of “temporary protection zone” whilst they sort out the details of assessments and devise new management solutions with TOs. We have been told this could take years to sort out. But don’t forget these are predominantly climbing areas not tourist sites listed on Visit Victoria. Why is Hollow Mountain any different to Taipan Wall? Tourists are walking over and writing on important cultural heritage sites. Parks Victoria – ignore this at your peril.

There are plenty more examples of damage to cultural heritage found at other Grampians tourist areas in this recent investigative article by Glen Tempest – Bushwalking Bans Looming in the Grampians/Gariwerd. Check it out!

Please share this article and don’ t forget to check out the other 60+ articles on this blog for further background reading. Stay tuned for further updates…