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Sacred South Australian cave gets extra protection


Security around the ancient Koonalda Cave on the Nullarbor will be increased after it was damaged by vandals last year.

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Considered a sacred site for the Mirning people of the Nullarbor, Koonalda Cave features finger-marked artwork dating back as far as 22,000 years, making it one of the oldest examples of Palaeolithic art in Australia.

A $400,000 government grant to further protect Koonalda Cave comes after vandals dug their way under a fence and destroyed sacred art by scratching over it.

Speaking to the BBC in December, Senior Mirning Elder Bunna Lawrie said the vandalism was a devastating experience for his people.

“It’s abuse to our country and it’s abuse to our history,” Lawrie said.

“What’s gone is gone and we’re never going to get it back.”

The cave was rediscovered in 1935 on an expedition led by Port Lincoln harbor master Captain J.M. Thompson and has since been heralded as a place of spiritual significance to the Mirning people.

Later excavations resulted in evidence of silica and flint mining being found, demonstrating the site as a place of archaeological significance as well.

Director of the National Parks Program Jason Irving said that the funding will include technological developments such as a security system as well as continued traditional conservation practices of the Mirning people.

“The money will be spent on working with traditional owners to develop an agreed plan, then infrastructure for the ongoing protection and management of the site,” Irving said.

The funding is part of $720,000 from the Australian Heritage Grants program that will also be spent on the Ediacara Fossil Site at Nilpena and the Australian Cornish Mining site at Burra.

South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher said it is crucial that important places such as the Koonalda Cave are protected.

“This action will help to further protect the stories of our Aboriginal communities while drawing upon the vast knowledge of the Traditional Owners who know these lands so well,” Maher said.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service and the State Government have yet to confirm a date as to when the heightened security and conservation will be implemented.

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