Unauthorised earthworks have destroyed a sacred Aboriginal heritage site belonging to the Adnyamathanha people, that’s also of significant geological value in the Flinders Ranges.


The damage has taken place on a boundary line between Nilpena Ediacara National Park in South Australia’s mid-north, and the Beltana Station. The work was planned to stop cattle from the station going into the sacred lands.

‘All the old lawmen…said the sandhills were never to be touched’, Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie told ABC Adelaide. The damage caused to the cultural heritage of the area has been heartbreaking for Regina and fellow Traditional Owners.

Read more: Unpacking the Voice to Parliament and Why We Are Explorers Supports It

How did the destruction of the Adnyamathanha sandhills happen?

National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia Executive Director Mike Williams has blamed ‘miscommunication’ and apologised.

Williams’ said it was well-intentioned work to put in a boundary line. The department had written to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association in August to get approval for the works, allowing 30 days to respond. Before the consultation process had been completed and ‘unbeknownst to us, a private contractor went onto the fence line and graded [it]’, Mr Williams told ABC Radio. Work was immediately ordered to stop.

Williams’ went on to provide reassurance that these matters are taken very seriously and a review into this situation will take place, along with an inspection by the Traditional Owners.

‘It should never have been touched’, McKenzie says. ‘It’s our belief system. It is so sacred’.

Environment Minister Susan Close has acknowledged the upset this has caused within Aboriginal Communities. ‘What has happened at the Beltana Pastoral Lease is deeply upsetting for the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners and I am very sorry for the distress it has caused them’ she said.

This all comes after the Nilpena Ediacara National Park was established in 2023 to protect the land of the Adnyamathanha people and the 550 million-year-old fossil site. It’s also been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tougher penalties were introduced in South Australia in May, for damaging Aboriginal heritage sites. This comes following the destruction of Juukan Gorge in Western Australia.  There will now be fines of up to $2 million for companies and $250,000 plus a jail term for individuals.

If you find this story distressing please contact either 13YARN (13 92 76) or the Aboriginal Counselling Services (0410 539 905).


Image thanks to @jackjbrookes