by Yanis Varoufakis

30th April 2013

Rock paintings, Burrup Peninsula, Dampier Archipelago, Western AustraliaImagine a dreamy landscape, under open wide skies and near a pristine ocean, far away from urban sprawls and highways. Imagine that it is strewn with refrigerator-sized rocks on which an ancient people carved and painted the faces of their contemporaries as they knew them, the faces of ancestors or spirits that they imagined, drawings of now extinct animals, depictions of the first white settlers, their ships, their campsites. Imagine that these petroglyphs went back fifty thousand years, making the painted faces on those rocks the oldest paintings of the human face on the planet. Imagine that there were ten of thousands of these painted rocks and that the climate in that vicinity was such, over the eons, that allowed them to be well preserved. Imagine that the whole area is a hundred thousand times the area of ancient Delphi or of Stonehenge. Imagine further that the survivors of these proud indigenous people are still around, using them as a historical and spiritual record which works its miracle of binding them to an ancient tradition that the rest of us can only study through archaeology.

Now, imagine that this dreamy landscape, that treasure gracing humanity in its totality, is being ripped apart by a multinational company that drills into it with reckless abandon, utterly disrespectful of its meaning and singularly interested in the gas and oil deposits underneath. Imagine that you are standing by, looking helplessly on, as monstrous bulldozers demolish these petroglyphs in their thousands, often only in order to turn them into landfill with which to pave roads so that their trucks can drive over. Imagine that the government is oblivious to the pleading indigenous people who are begging it to stop the cultural carnage. Imagine that the directors of the said company also sit on the board of directors of that state’s main newspapers, making it impossible for journalists to alert public opinion to the crime being perpetuated.


Well, stop imagining. All of the above is happening now at Burrup Peninsula, on the Dampier Archipelago in Western Australia. If it were happening at the Louvre or at Stonehenge or on the Acropolis hill, we would all have been up in arms. But because it is happening at a remote corner of Australia, against the heritage of a people that we Europeans have almost eliminated, very few of us know about it. Time to end the silence. And to raise our voices so loud as to shame the Federal Government of Australia to act immediately – or else face the same global damnation that the Taliban faced when they brought down those ancient Buddha’s.


For a highly informative radio podcast-program the Burrup petroglyphs, click here: ABC Radio National, Late Night Live with Philip Adams, 29th April 2013