West Wallsend Butterfly Cave

I want to clarify comments I made earlier today in my community recognition statement when I talked about five outstanding young athletes from Cessnock who have gone to the National Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne. I have just received some great news from Melbourne that four of those five young people are returning home with gold medals and the fifth has finished mid-field in Australia. They are five young people from Cessnock who formed part of an elite academy in squat under coach Dzmitry Shostau who made the State team. Five went to the nationals, and four of them will return to Cessnock as national champions.

Dzmitry Shostau is from Belarus by birth and nationality, and we are hoping to change that sometime soon. He travelled through Cessnock with the Moscow circus when we were in the process building a brand new PCYC centre. When he looked at the height of the roof of the gymnastics and trampoline area he thought, “I can coach a world champion here” and he is on his way, just 2½ years after arriving in Cessnock, to coaching a world champion because he has already got four Australian champions. I take my hat off to the PCYC, to Dzmitry Shostau and those five young athletes who have been participating in Melbourne.

I also make a final plea to the Treasurer in the lead-up to the budget on behalf of the Aboriginal communities that I have the great privilege to represent. I refer to the Awabakal people and the Butterfly Cave at West Wallsend. I want to put on Hansard my great appreciation and thanks to various Ministers in this Government—and I say this from Opposition. I refer to various Ministers for the Environment, going back to Minister Parker, and currently Minister Speakman. I also thank Minister Stokes, Minister Williams and former Minister Dominello in Aboriginal Affairs. They have given me every opportunity to make a case to them to have ministerial and departmental involvement to try to find a solution to a problem.

To summarise it as crudely and simply as I can, the Butterfly Cave that is a sacred Aboriginal site sits inside a broader development of about 400 units in lots and homes. We all understand that our Aboriginal peoples did not construct skyscrapers, buildings, sandstone brick platforms or walkways, but worked within their natural environment. The Butterfly Cave is one such beautiful natural environment. It is a sacred women’s site where they went to do women’s business. The sacredness of that site has a history that is some 35,000 or more years old.

Unfortunately under white fella’s laws, white fella’s rules and white fella’s planning regulations, we simply cannot recognise the significance of this site, or its history, because it is not a built form; it is a natural form. It is a naturally occurring cave in its natural state. But for the people who walked this place 35,000 years ago, who had no capacity to build built structures and built form, the natural environment was the only opportunity to have something like a birthing place, a place of special ceremony and a place of women’s business.

This site known as the Butterfly Cave sits in the middle of a 400-lot development at West Wallsend known as the Hammersmith development. The developers got all the approvals according to white fella laws. The Ministers have worked with me as much as they can but we are at a dead end. In three weeks’ time the Treasurer of this State will hand down a budget. The only option we have to save the Butterfly Cave is to pay the developer fair money for that land in its currently undeveloped form—to buy back 40 blocks of land undeveloped allowing for a profit of about 25 per cent, which is incredibly generous. That would amount to $50,000 per block and would equate to $2 million. We can save Butterfly Cave—the Aboriginal heritage and the first women’s sacred site in this State—for $2 million. I beg the Treasurer to find the money in this year’s budget for this.