Blue Mountains City Council supports Transport for NSW’s decision to temporarily relocate Explorers Tree, away from the Great Western Highway north of Katoomba, due to safety concerns.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole announced yesterday (18 February 2021) that the stump of the large Mountain Ash, reputed to have been inscribed with the names of three of Australia’s earliest European explorers, would be temporarily removed due its “crash risk”.
Heritage specialists will help preserve the tree, plaque and stone features used to support the tree while the community is engaged about the best way to reinterpret the tree in the future.
Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill welcomed the announcement: “Council has been concerned about the deterioration of the tree, as well as the support structure that was put in place to safeguard, for some time.”
Very little remains of the actual tree, which died and was filled with concrete decades ago.
“The site is historically significant and so Council will work with Transport for NSW to identify opportunities for interpretation and homage of both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stories and heritage of the Blue Mountains,” Mayor Greenhill said.
Transport for NSW reported the Explorers Tree will be included in its Cultural Interpretation Strategy for the Great Western Highway upgrade.
In 2018, Council received a grant from the NSW Government to review and refresh the interpretation of the Pulpit Hill precinct, at Katoomba.
Historically, interpretation of Pulpit Hill has focused on its European heritage, presenting the Explorers Tree as a prominent symbol of the expansion of the British colony. The refreshed approach, while continuing to recognise its symbolism as a record of British colonial expansion, for the first time recognised the ongoing impact on the Dharug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri people, and the dispossession and ongoing disadvantage that ensued.
“Presenting the material in this way both respects the need of Aboriginal people for their experience of European colonisation to be truthfully told, and responds to the significant appetite in the broader community to acknowledge, heal and move forward into a more inclusive and honest future,” Mayor Greenhill said.
In adopting this approach, Council also made a historic resolution that in interpreting heritage in the City going forward, a similar practice will be adopted where appropriate, whereby both an Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspective will be provided, as well as other inclusive themes, such as class, gender and ethnicity.