Seven Sisters Quarry Rehabilitation

A proposal to rehabilitate the Seven Sisters Gravel Pit as a public amphitheatre dedicated to the Wiradjuri people on whose land it stands, and to develop a biennial theatrical event to celebrate Wiradjuri culture, create new opportunities for Inland communities, and attract regional, national and international tourists

Draft concept by Dr Merrill Findlay for Big Skies Collaboration, v. 4 August 2020. For background on this project, please see My Seven Sisters Dreaming and Seven Sistas Weavings.

Seven Sisters Ridge is a culturally significant line of lava hills in what is now Forbes Shire, Central Western New South Wales. For many years, the sedimentary deposits at its base have been quarried by Forbes Shire Council for road gravel. Mining is likely to cease soon, however, and Council will be required, under NSW Environment Law, to rehabilitate the site.

The quarry could be rehabilitated as a Wiradjuri healing place, Reconciliation memorial, education site, amphitheatre and international tourist attraction to bring lasting benefits to Inland communities.

Cultural Significance

Seven Sisters Ridge was/is a sacred site on the Australia-wide Seven Sisters Songline and remains significant to Wiradjuri people who know it, especially to those whose forebears worked in the pastoral industry in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or lived at The Murie and The Mission in the small town of Condobolin in neighbouring Lachlan Shire

Ancient stories tell of seven sisters leaping into the sky to escape one or more male pursuers to become the Mulayndynang, the stars of the Seven Sisters cluster also known as the Pleiades, in the constellation Taurus.  Seven Sisters Ridge is named for them. Cultural astronomers suggest that the Ridge might also have been an observatory site from which Wiradjuri scientists studied the Mulayndynang and other celestial phenomena. 

The impact of the British invasion and colonisation of Inland NSW and the racist government policies that followed was so extreme that, tragically, only fragments of the ancestral Seven Sisters stories have been passed on to current generations.

Archaeological evidence of Wiradjuri people’s long-term presence at Seven Sisters Ridge is substantial, however. It includes an ochre mine, many scar trees, and scatters of stone tools. Google Earth also reveals evidence of extinct billabongs on the western side of the Ridge which indicate that, thousands of years ago, this floodplain would have been a haven capable of supporting hundreds of people during ceremony seasons.

Wiradjuri community visit to Seven Sisters Ridge in 2017: article published on front page of The Lachlander, Condobolin, Friday 30 October, 2017.

Rehabilitation of quarry site and construction of amphitheatre

Stone quarries have been successfully rehabilitated as amphitheatres in many parts of the world, including Perth , Adelaide (more >>; more >>), Shepparton (more>>) and in Victoria’s Grampians National Park, where they have become popular performance and festival sites.

Turning Seven Sisters Quarry into an amphitheatre and public space would involve the following:

  • Negotiations with the owners of the farm that surrounds the site
  • Consultation with Condo LALC and local Wiradjuri communities, and negotiation of with a co-management MOU
  • Negotiation of permanent right-of-way and possible land purchase for permanent access and parking
  • Many grant applications and sponsorship deals to cover costs
  • Archaeological survey of the entire Seven Sisters Ridge and its surrounds
  • Development Application to Forbes Shire Council
  • Appointment of a landscape architect experienced in amphitheatre design
  • Creation of a stage large enough for up to 100 dancers and other performers
  • A sand-covered dance circle within the stage space
  • A vertical quarry wall behind the stage suitable for projections
  • Seating space for several thousand people
  • Space for off-site parking, delivery trucks, solar panels and batteries, transportable toilets, dressing rooms, site offices, stalls, camping/glamping tents, shelters for other events such as yarning circles, indigenous cooking demonstrations, food preparation and sit-down dining, live music, art and craft exhibitions, and workshops on related subjects etc
  • Design and installation of interpretive signage to acknowledge the traditional landowners and describe the Ridge’s natural and cultural heritage values
  • Ongoing site management, including control of feral animals (wild pigs and goats)
  • Et cetera
The Mulayndynang, or Seven Sisters, woven by the Condo Sista Shed fibre artists for Condo SkyFest 2018. See https://bigskiescollaboration.wordpress.com/condo-sky-weavings/

Seven Sisters Theatre Production

The first production in the Seven Sisters amphitheatre could be a world-class celebration of Wiradjuri cultural heritage in dance, music, song, physical theatre and video.  

It could be preceded by at least three years of capacity building opportunities to give locals the knowledge, skills and confidence required to fully participate in this celebration as performers, tourist guides, accommodation providers, entrepreneurs, educators, site managers, cultural astronomers,  and in other capacities.   

Skilled professionals would develop the production storyline in consultation with community groups over these three years.  The final script might include references to ancestral stories about the Seven Sisters, and the relationship Wiradjuri people had to this site in pre-colonial times; the impact of colonisation on people and Country from the perspective of Wiradjuri people; cultural traditions of the diverse Others who have lived in this region over the past 200 years; and the cultural significance of the Mulayndynang for Wiradjuri and other cultural groups, for example.  The script might also refer to humanity’s hopes for an ecologically sustainable future and our quest to explore and understand the Universe.

The signature Seven Sisters event could be held every second year at the amphitheatre site. Future productions might include international cultural exchanges and guest performers from other cultural groups with Seven Sisters traditions. The site could also be used for public and private events in between the biennial productions and as a major tourist attraction for the region.

Seven Sisters Ridge, Yarrabandai, with the seven peaks clearly visible.

Funding

Substantial funding for the archaeological survey, quarry rehabilitation, amphitheatre design and construction, community capacity building, and the theatrical production itself would be required.

Project Collaborators

Forbes Shire Council (confirmed); Big Skies Collaboration (confirmed); Wiradjuri Study Centre, Condobolin (confirmed); Box of Birds/Stalker Theatre (confirmed); Arts OutWest (confirmed); Destination Network Country and Outback (confirmed); Lachlan Shire Council (confirmed); CENTROC – Central NSW Joint Organisation (TBC); NAISDA Dance College (TBC); NATOC – NSW Aboriginal Tourism Operators Council (TBC); Condo LALC – Condobolin Local Aboriginal Land Council (TBC); Forbes Art Society (TBC); Parkes Shire Council (TBC); Charles Sturt University (TBC); Various health organisations (TBC); Other groups, organisations and individuals who would like to make a positive contribution.

For more information, please contact Dr Merrill Findlay: bigskiescollaboration@gmail.com

Page created 4 August 2020. Proposal last revised 7 August 2020

Permalink: https://bigskiescollaboration.wordpress.com/projects/quarry-rehabilitation-project/