Aboriginal Rock Art Sites

Aboriginal art sites usually occur in rock shelters which protect them from wind, water and sunshine. Art sites may include paintings or engravings. Some art may have had a ceremonial or ritual purpose, while other art may have been produced for more domestic purposes. The only currently known art sites in the ACT occur in Namadgi National Park and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, although there are rumours that there is an art site in limestone caves deep under Canberra's City centre.

Photo of rock art

The Yankee Hat Rock Art is located in Gudgenby Valley in Namadgi National Park which is approximately 30 km southwest of Tharwa and 90 minutes from Canberra. The art is located on the central zone of the rear wall of a rock shelter which has protected it from regular surface water flow. The rock art is located in boulders situated at the foot of the north-eastern slopes of Yankee Hat Mountain at an elevation of 1,065 metres.

Rock art sites are of heritage and cultural significance to Aboriginal people as they provide evidence of the importance of the site to their ancestors. The rock art sites are representative of a unique type within the ACT and Southern tablelands region, and are therefore invaluable at both a popular and academic level in understanding Aboriginal history and culture in the region. Rock art sites have considerable scientific value and have been the subject of several studies. The paintings at Yankee Hat are well preserved and contain the first prehistoric drawings identified in the ACT.

The bushfires of 2003 that burnt 90% of Namadgi National Park also provided opportunistic and ongoing research into the impacts of fire and management of Aboriginal art sites.

The Namadgi Rock Art Working Group was established in 2008 to facilitate the development of a Conservation Management Plan for all the rock art sites in Namadgi. The group is a collaborative partnership between Namadgi National Park staff and the local Aboriginal community. It plays a critical advisory role to staff management on the implementation and further development of the Conservation Management Plan and assists with the annual monitoring and maintenance work at the sites. The group also conducts annual training in contemporary rock art assessment, maintenance and recording techniques, and provides a valuable Aboriginal perspective to the conservation of the sites. Representatives on the Namadgi Rock Art Working Group include the ACT Registered Aboriginal Organisations (King Brown Tribal Group (Ngunnawal), Buru Ngunawal Aboriginal Corporation, Little Gudgenby River Tribal Council (Ngambri), Ngarigu Currawong Clan), United Ngunnawal Elders Council, representatives of the Murumbung Yurung Murra Aboriginal staff group and Namadgi National Park staff. The Namadgi Rock Art Working Group won the 2011 ACT Leighton Indigenous Landcare Award, and was one of 88 finalists in the 2012 National Landcare Awards. The group also won the 2012 ACT NAIDOC Caring for Country Award.

“These rock art sites are part of an ancient pathway through a landscape my ancestors managed for thousands of years, and I’m proud to be protecting their stories of Aboriginal people coming together for ceremony, marriage, trade and lore for our future generations. The Namadgi Rock Art Working Group reflects our traditional ways of meeting and exchanging knowledge, and maintaining the spiritual, social and environmental connectivity between Traditional Caretakers.” Adrian Brown, Ngunnawal descendent and Ngunnawal Country Ranger in the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

“The ongoing success of this project can be attributed to the foundation of a simple idea built on an approach of genuine cooperation and partnership. This is a project that as a Park Service we are incredibly proud of and celebrate – it is indeed best practice cultural heritage management” Brett McNamara - Manager Regional Operations, National Parks and Catchments, ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Yankee Hat Rock Art Site brochure (PDF 463KB) (WORD 871KB)

Please respect Aboriginal heritage sites and objects. It is an offence to damage, disturb or destroy Aboriginal heritage places and objects.