An Indigenous elder in Western Australia’s Great Southern region wants a nude photo trend in the Stirling Range National Park to end and would prefer if tourists stopped climbing peaks in the park altogether.
Goreng elder and tour guide Joey Williams said the ‘Buff on the Bluff’ social media craze, which results in hikers posting photos of themselves naked once they reached the peak of Bluff Knoll, was disrespectful.
“Especially if it’s posted up and they have got a beautiful panoramic shot of the top of the hill, but someone’s butt cheeks are on there,” he said.
“That’s just an invitation to say ‘Hey, we can do what we want on this place’.”
While Mr Williams said it was OK for people to climb the mountain if they were respectful, he would still prefer it if they did not climb.
“I’m against it, I’ll let you know that,” he said.
It comes two weeks after the traditional owners of Uluru voted to ban climbing on the rock from 2019.
“It would be good for people to stop [climbing],” Mr Williams said.
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“I’m in the tourism game too and I still don’t go up there myself.
“I’ll tell them about the story at the top … but I don’t encourage them to go up there. I tell my story at the car park.”
Calls to respect Noongar spirits
The Indigenous name for Bluff Knoll is Bular Mial, which means many eyes.
“It’s the hill of many eyes. Eyes are upon you there, protecting us,” Mr Williams said.
“Our Noongar spirits go back to Bular Mial.”
“Dad says he actually went up there a couple of times in his lifetime, and he said we shouldn’t really be going up there because we are walking on our family people’s spirits.”
The Stirling Range National Park is managed by WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DCBA).
A department spokesperson said the department was not aware that the matter of climbing Bluff Knoll had ever been raised with the department by Indigenous people.
“The department has consulted local Indigenous groups on a range of matters,” the spokesperson said.
“Nude pictures for social media are not limited to Bluff Knoll. DBCA considers this represents only a small number of visitors and a fad at Bluff Knoll.”
Bluff Knoll a significant area
Gnowangerup Aboriginal Corporation chairman Robbie Miniter did not believe tourists should stop climbing, but agreed that nude photos were disrespectful.
“No-one’s really touched upon that, even though the Stirlings and Bluff Knoll particularly are pretty significant to us,” he said.
“We believe Bluff Knoll, Bular Mial, is the King Spirits, and we return there after death and that’s what’s believed throughout our country.
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“You don’t go down the main street and take your clothes off, you know, that’s showing yourself disrespect.
“Doing it to one of our local sites is pretty disrespectful to our people.
“I just think that there should be more respect shown, especially towards the mountain and then for the Aboriginal people.
Tourists need to know
Visitor Phillip Gough had a nude photo taken at the peak and said he would not have done it had he known about cultural sensitivities.
“It was a spur of the moment decision to de-robe,” he said.
“If there were signage stating this, I would respect the cultural significance.
“I did actually receive numerous hate mails, one saying they were going to report the picture to the authorities.”
Mr Williams said tourists needed to be made more aware of the range’s significance.
“It just needs to be put out there and made aware, that we are concerned about people disrespecting our traditional country,” he said.