The geography of respect

Rock climbers, Traditional Owners and reconciling ways of seeing

Featured in

  • Published 20230801
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-86-3
  • Extent: 196pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

ROUGHLY FIVE HOURS’ drive north of Adelaide, in the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, is a cultural and geological marvel known in English as Wilpena Pound. To the Adnyamathanha, the Traditional Owners of the lands encompassing the Pound, this marvel is Ikara, ‘meeting place’, from which the park draws its name. The creation story of Ikara, as told by Adnyamathanha and Ngarrindjeri woman Jacinta Koolmatrie in The Conversation in 2019, is connected to that of Yurlu the Kingfisher. It tells of the journey of Yurlu, the Master of Ceremonies, down to Ikara and the fires he made along the way, which signalled a great gathering and resulted in the coal deposits that have attracted mining operations to the area for many years. It tells of the two big snakes who followed him, known as Akurras, whose passage is visible in the unique shape and pattern of the hills and whose resting bodies give the Pound its shape. Archaeological evidence from the nearby Warratyi rock shelter dates Aboriginal settlement of the area back 49,000 years. Every surface of this rugged, rolling land is mapped by foot, by story and by custom. 

The two curved ranges of the Pound form a natural amphitheatre. Viewed from above, it appears like a shock radiating from a central depression, cliffs forming the face of an outward-running wave as if the impact of some great celestial weight had moved the earth like water and then frozen it in time. The varied, striking outback landscape is a lodestone for ecotourists and bushwalkers. One of the Pound’s cliff faces, Moonarie, is a renowned rock-climbing site. A towering wall of orange quartzite, Moonarie was once one of the most esteemed climbing locations, or ‘crags’, in the country. Once, because Moonarie is predominantly a traditional or ‘trad’ climbing area. Trad climbing involves few, if any, permanent safety features, and a climber must ensure their own safety through a combination of the natural features of the rock and an array of removable devices carried on their harness. It is slow, and contemplative, and not without substantial risk. The late twentieth century saw the rise of sport climbing, in which a climbing route is designated by a line of bolts fixed permanently to the rock and a climber follows it with relative impunity. Its popularity has largely surpassed that of trad. Such laborious, so-called ‘clean’ climbing is now more the purview of old hands, adventure junkies and dedicated naturalists.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Waiting our turn

EssayGENERATIONALISM IS A complex phenomenon. The concept of a generation is obvious: the social and economic contexts for a group of people born around the...

More from this edition

Dressed for success

In ConversationHip-hop was about taking this mainstream look – a nice, acceptable, appropriate look – and, like, changing it up. Sampling it like it’s a song and turning it into something new. So when preppy emerged in mainstream white corporate culture, it started mixing with denim in new ways and mixing with sneakers in new ways and becoming a form of streetwear.

Hump day

Fiction‘Well, I’m sure all your questions will be answered very soon. Genius Inc. is holding a press conference at 3 pm,’ Sam says. ‘The Prime Minister will be there too, since the government is partly funding them now, after their cancer discovery. It’s serious, Prue. Try to have an open mind, alright? Keep your phone close. I’ll call you straight after.’ ‘Sure,’ she yells after him, ‘if we survive it.’

Virtue signals

Non-fictionThe sheer speed and volume at which data is processed, coupled with popular imaginings of the infallibility of machines, means that predictions produced by such processes are imbued with the aura of objectivity. As a result, hard decisions – acting in contexts of radical uncertainty, and having to determine winners and losers – become easy ones based on limited considerations directed towards improving the lot of as many individuals as possible while doing least harm. In other words, big data transforms the need to act politically into the possibility of acting only technically.

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.