Powerful and Powerless: Kabi Kabi Coolum Rock Engraving Stranded in Urban Southeast Queensland without Assessment or Protection
Student, Flinders University
Kerry Jones, Kabi Kabi Traditional Owner
Forgotten rock art or engravings (KC 203) were rediscovered in April 2019, at the front of a Coolum Beach motel, after its sale for re-development by Mark Bain Constructions of Sunshine Beach. The Queensland Government’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 (ACHA 2003) requires a proponent to exercise a ‘duty of care’ and to sponsor a cultural heritage management plan, developed with Traditional Owners. The developer initially made an offer to sponsor the costs of the cultural heritage assessment and then subsequently refused same. The former local councillor in 2019 indicated a willingness to contribute funds towards assessment costs. This unit development continues throughout 2020, without the engravings having any formal cultural heritage assessment, and despite any surviving rock art or engravings in southeast Queensland, being rare and highly significant.
Coolum Beach, 100 km north of Brisbane, sits within the Country of Kabi Kabi First Nation (KKFN). The cost of taking the developer to court is prohibitive to the limited resources of KKFN, and it is not yet understood why the Queensland Government’s Cultural Heritage Unit have not yet taken the developer to court.
Adding to the sorrow and anguish of this situation, is that in 2019, another rock art site (KC 003) just to the north, was subject to vandalism. As well, a carved tree (KC 194) to the west, remains un-assessed and unprotected. In contrast, the Sunshine Coast’s mainstream arts and culture sector, for example Sunshine Coast Council’s annual Horizon Festival, enjoys a budget of around $666,000. It could be conceived that all three of these Kabi Kabi sites within the context of their cultural landscapes, are priceless, similar to the topical Juukan Gorge site, destroyed by Rio Tinto in Western Australia. The effectiveness of the media spotlight directed towards cultural heritage mismanagement, such as KC 203, is discussed.