Risk and resilience: Baiame's Cave and creation landscape, NSW, Australia

Catherine Forbes, Tim Owen, Sharon Veale

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


For Aboriginal people on the east coast of New South Wales (NSW), Australia, Baiame is the creator. At Baiame’s Cave, located in the Upper Hunter Valley, Baiame is depicted on the rear wall of an overhanging rock shelter that overlooks a broad grassy valley. He is represented as an eagle with penetrating eyes, soaring over the land he created. The site is of immense cultural significance to the Wonnarua people and other Aboriginal people in the region and beyond. The significance of the place is recognised by statutory protection on two separate NSW heritage lists. The site is currently facing environmental and land use pressure, including coal mining and continued agricultural production, with additional pressures from increased visitation and cultural tourism. To manage the risks to the place, the Wonnarua people have built relationships with local land owners and public authorities. In seeking continued access to the cave, which is on privately owned land, they have worked with key stakeholders to identify and manage risks to the land, the cave, its artwork, its immediate landscape setting and the broader landscape over which it looks. A multidisciplinary team of specialists in cultural heritage, Aboriginal archaeology, rock art conservation and risk management, undertook on-site workshops with Wonnarua elders, local property owners and community representatives with the following aims: to identify risks to the site from both natural and human hazards (wildfire, flood, drought, vandalism, mining and wear and tear); to develop mitigation strategies to minimize the risks; and to facilitate educational opportunities for sharing Aboriginal culture and knowledge within both the local Aboriginal community and the broader Australian community. The outcome from this consultation was developed into a risk management strategy for Baiame Cave and its associated cultural landscape. The paper seeks to provide an understanding of the Aboriginal attachment to Baiame Cave and the land, and the cooperative approach adopted to land management to build sustainable forms of cultural and environmental resilience for heritage. The risk management strategy is essential to supporting cultural resilience, intergenerational equity and revitalization of traditional customs, beliefs and cultural practices within the Wonnarua community.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th International Conference on Building Resilience
Subtitle of host publicationRisk and Resilience in Practice: Vulnerabilities, Displaced People, Local Communities and Heritages
EditorsA. Nuno Martins, Liliane Hobeica, Adib Hobeica, Pedro Pinto Santos, Nuha Eltinay, José Manuel Mendes
Place of PublicationPortugal
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-989-54741-0-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • cultural landscape
  • nature-culture relationship
  • resilience
  • sustainable land management
  • risk management
  • traditional knowledge


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