Aboriginal Sites and Rock Climbing

Did you know there are over 1000 sites of Aboriginal Culture and heritage in the areas of Sydney known as North Sydney, Lane Cove, Willoughby, Manly and the Northern Beaches Council.handstencil

Many of these sites are found in the cliffs and crags of the Hawkesbury Sandstone rock formations that make up much of the wider Sydney area.

The sites are of significance to Aboriginal people because they are evidence of the past Aboriginal occupation and are valued as a link with their traditional culture. There is also great scientific value in these sites. By studying the shells, stones and bones, we can learn a great deal about past environments, what plants and animals were used by people, what tools they used and how they survived.


Sites are under threat every day from development, vandalism and natural erosion. Recreational activities like rock climbing can also do irreparable damage. The sites cannot be replaced, and once they are destroyed, they are lost forever.

Even though rock climbing is a relatively low impact sport, some of the methods used can be damaging to Aboriginal heritage.

  • Putting bolts into rock leaves permanent scars and will permanently deface the site.

  • Climbing routes that pass over or adjacent rock art results in scuffing and wear of the art surfaces and loss of pigments.

  • Chalk adheres to rock surfaces and can damage rock art.

  • Chalk marks on an Aboriginal site is aesthetically displeasing and deeply hurtful to Indigenous people.

  • Repeated use of a site leads to erosion of archaeological deposits such as shell middens.


As all Aboriginal sites in NSW are protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act it is an offence to damage or destroy them so climbing on and around these sites is against the law. Sandstone overhangs have high potential for Aboriginal heritage and therefore rock climbing can be seen as a high risk activity that could impact an Aboriginal site.

Rock climbing is restricted in many National Parks and Council reserves for this and other reasons. Rangers and Compliance Officers will take actions to prosecute climbers if Aboriginal sites are being harmed.

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