Uluru at Sunset. (Image: Anton Galitch)
Two men have been found guilty of vandalising a sacred Uluru cave-art site by using oily hands to permanently damage the artwork.
Shawn Bartley and Richard Jarrett faced multiple charges related to the incident in August 2022 including damaging and defacing a Commonwealth reserve, entering a prohibited area, and lighting a fire on and taking animals onto a Commonwealth reserve, according to the ABC.
Both individuals allegedly assert themselves as “sovereign citizens”, a fringe group known for misinterpreting and appropriating aspects of Indigenous cultures and who believe that the law doesn’t apply to them, as reported by The Conversation.
In court it was revealed that on August 11, 2022, the two men drove into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, parked in a designated no-stopping zone, and unlawfully climbed a fence while accompanied by their two dogs.
They entered the forbidden Warayuki cave, once used for Anangu men’s business, leaving oily handprints on sacred rock art.
A fire was then ignited, and sand was moved to create a drawing on the cave floor.
Upon entering the cave, a tour guide had spotted the offenders and reported hearing clapsticks, assuming a traditional ceremony was under way.
“The rangers could hear the sound of clapsticks, and it was considered that something similar to ceremony was taking place,” Commonwealth prosecutor Ryan Bocock said.
“The rangers waited for the Aṉangu Traditional Owners to arrive at the site and then intercepted Jarrett and Bartley who emerged … with two dogs.
“A conversation ensued between Jarrett and Bartley and the Traditional Owners where Jarrett stated that he came to make treaty … with ‘my people.'”
In court, Traditional Owners argued that Jarrett and Bartley had no connection to Aṉangu men and had entered the cave without permission.
Mr Bocock rejected any “mistaken belief” that the co-accused had permission to enter the area, and told the court Jarrett’s claims he had been there to make a treaty “lacked credibility”.
It was also revealed that both men had prior criminal records.
Bartley’s record was characterised as “old and minor,” whereas Jarrett’s record was described as “substantial” and displaying a “repeated disrespect for the law,” the ABC reported.
However, Judge David Bamber pointed out this was the first time the men had faced charges of this kind, and he emphasised that the harm to rock art constituted their most serious offense.
“This is a case where we have two persons who have these wrong-headed notions of sovereign citizenship, whatever that means,” he said.
“Clearly this was quite a blatant attempt to thumb their noses both at the general law and show really a contempt to the culture of the Traditional Owners.”
Neither appeared in court on Thursday, and were fined $8,600 each.
Read the original article here on the NIT website.