Custodians call for closure of Mount Beerwah to climbers in Glasshouse Mountains: ABC

ABC Sunshine Coast / By Meg BoltonSarah Howells, and Tessa Mapstone
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BJ’s mother, Aunty Zeitha Murphy, joined him across the weekend educating visitors.(Supplied: BJ Murphy)

Pressure is building for authorities to close a hiking trail up a culturally significant peak in the Glasshouse Mountains on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

Jinibara songman BJ Murphy has been camping at the foot of Mount Beerwah for the past two nights to educate visitors on the cultural harm caused by hiking.

He said Mount Beerwah should be treated with the same respect as Uluru and Mount Warning in New South Wales where hiking is not permitted.

“She [Mount Beerwah] is seen as a grandmother and ancestral spirit for us,” Mr Murphy said.

“We sit on our grandmother’s shoulder; we don’t stand on her head.”

He said the site was used for sacred ceremonies and Indigenous women gave birth alongside the mountain.

Key points:
  • Traditional custodians want Mount Beerwah closed to hikers
  • They say climbing the mountain is disrespectful to Indigenous culture because it is considered a grandmother
  • According to Aboriginal culture, those who visit the site are putting their safety at risk
An indigenous man with face paint hold a boomerang in front of bushland

BJ Murphy is planning to stay up to a week to speak with climbers on school holidays.(Supplied: BJ Murphy)

“I wanted to make a peaceful statement and share culture and our story with the hikers and why we’d rather them choose to hike a beautiful trail rather than climb one of our ancestral mountains,” he said.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has been contacted for comment.

An escalating risk

Two people were rescued from Mount Beerwah by emergency services on Monday night.

Since January, at least 21 people have been rescued from national parks from Gympie to the Sunshine Coast.

Mr Murphy said Monday’s rescue operation was “incredible” to witness.

“They were stuck up the top near the grandmother’s face,” he said.

Mount Beerwah from the carpark

After warning people not to climb the mountain all day, two visitors had to be rescued by emergency services that night.()

“The amount of resources and taxes it must cost all of us working in the system to cover these rescues, I can’t even fathom how much, it was crazy.”

He said according to Aboriginal culture, spiritual energy on the mountain could contribute to incidents.

“It’s the energy from the mountain and we’re not supposed to climb it and people don’t pay attention to that feeling,” he said.

“I always say listen to your gut and if you go up there and you’re second guessing it, I recommend everybody just turning around.

“When someone dies up on the mountain, we carry this internal responsibility and we grieve for other families’ loss of beautiful people who have chosen to climb it and sadly not made it back down.

“It’s not worth dying over.”

He planned to camp at the mountain for the next week.

Other options available

Mr Murphy said 10 hikers had chosen to go elsewhere after their conversations at the base of the mountain, which turned into “therapy sessions”.

“I’ve been asking people why they’re choosing to climb and where they’re from, and for a lot of people it seems to be for mental health,” Mr Murphy said.

A sign urging people not to climb a mountain

BJ Murphy says the mountain is a grandmother to Indigenous people.()

He said the conversations have focused on what hikers are hoping to conquer within themselves when they plan to walk to the summit.

“There are other places that you can go that aren’t a sacred mountain to climb,” he said.

“A lot of people have gone to Mount Tibrogargan instead because you can walk around it and you still see all the beauty and you can feel the energy of the mountains whilst doing that.”