SUBIACO resident and Nyungar Iva Hayward-Jackson (53) says the greater indigenous community was excluded when potentially significant caves were buried because of safety fears at Mosman Park beach in March.
“I can’t acknowledge that safety claim, and nor can others, because I never saw it, they never saw it, before the work. We were invisible,” Mr Hayward-Jackson, who grew up in Mosman Park, said.
Mosman Park council used limestone and granite boulders to block the caves, after talks with the Whadjuk Working Group of the Aboriginal Land and Sea Council and the Department of Planning, when engineers said the natural structures’ columns had stress fractures and risked collapse, including the impact of storm waves.
The site, known as Moondarup, is linked to a Shark Dreaming and initiation about spirits after death in an anthropologists’ report in 2014 .
However, Mr Hayward-Jackson said the working group may not represent wider Nyungar and the caves’ significance reached the people of the Western Desert.
“They’d be devastated in the same way the are devastated about what’s happening with development of the Swan River, such as the bridge to the Perth Stadium,” he said.
Mr Hayward- Jackson attended Mosman Park Primary and Swanbourne High schools, and he said he and siblings were taken on walks past the caves, which they were forbidden to enter, before he sought knowledge of Moondarup in even more ancient Aboriginal understanding.
“And what the council has done to this site affects all of that,” he said.
He said he did not want to fight the Land and Sea Council, but the wider Nyungar community had to be consulted and Mosman Park council should remove the Swan Hills granite that was “poison” at the caves, while ensuring Aboriginal Heritage Act permission for a nearby boardwalk.
Mosman Park buried the site because of concerns of a beach cave collapse similar to the one that killed nine in Gracetown in 1996, and Mayor Brett Pollock said council was “keen” to hear Mr Hayward-Jackson’s knowledge of the Town’s caves and others, after which there could be review.
“We’d like to understand if we have done the right or wrong thing,” Mr Pollock said.
Signs now show the buried caves’ use as a spiritual gateway and as an animal habitat.