CSIRO's opening statement at the Senate Inquiry into Aboriginal rock art on the Burrup Peninsula given today.

CSIRO OPENING STATEMENT – Senate Inquiry, Friday 17 February

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee and provide further information on our rock art monitoring work on the Burrup Peninsula.

CSIRO prides itself on its people and the integrity of its science. Our research undertaken in relation to the Burrup Peninsula rock art is no exception and was the first of its kind worldwide.

The Burrup Rock Art is of national significance, and as demonstrated over the past 13 years, we are committed to providing robust data to ensure its preservation. 

We also welcome the opportunity to clarify for the Committee the role CSIRO has played, and what has been delivered.

CSIRO was selected to undertake three projects to monitor the heritage rock art sites on the Burrup Peninsula, after responding to WA government tenders. The parameters for each of the three projects, including their scale and scope, were set by the WA Government at the outset in 2004.

The three projects were to:

  • Monitor air pollution and dust deposition rates
  • Measure colour change and mineral spectroscopy
  • Undertake accelerated ageing tests.

CSIRO has delivered to the specifications set out in each project. It is important to note CSIRO also went over and above the project deliverables and scope to ensure the data was sound and meaningful, and meet any additional requests such as reviewing reports, and providing raw data and further information.

We used suitable technologies that are non invasive or damaging to the rock art, and the projects have been done with approval from the traditional owners of the land, respecting any restrictions regarding the sites or the rock art.

As with all research and projects we undertake, CSIRO is committed to full and transparent participation in the scientific peer review process. Our project reports – including the methodologies, results and data analysis – were reviewed by a panel of international experts prior to publication and were positively received.

Contrary to media reports, CSIRO fulfilled all its requirements for the WA Government to date. The latest report is being prepared and will incorporate the past two years of monitoring colour change and mineral spectroscopy.

We have built on our understanding in the field over the 13 years since the projects began.

The review and update of the scientific design is a normal part of scientific endeavour. If future projects are to be undertaken, it would be prudent to review the parameters in light of the greater wealth of knowledge and equipment now available.

As always, CSIRO welcomes other research in the field that leads to a greater scientific understanding and we remain open to working with our research peers on further studies on the Burrup Peninsula.

We are here today to stand by our researchers and the science they produce, and provide greater detail on these projects to help the Committee in its Inquiry.

We are happy to answer any questions that the Committee has on the Burrup Peninsula research projects mentioned.

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