A ROCKY outcrop at Warrnambool’s Hopkins River mouth is set to become an international drawcard for tourists and scientists.
If proven to be Australia’s oldest known Aboriginal heritage site it will have important ramifications worldwide for interpreting the history of human migration.
Artefacts at the landmark, known by the European name of Point Ritchie and by Aborigines as Moyjil, have already been identified in some research as at least 35,000 years old and there are indications it could point to civilisation 80,000 years ago.
Shells, rocks and charcoal indicate it is probably the oldest human activity site in Victoria.
Moves to recognise the significance were enhanced last week with the launch of a website and documentary produced by Warrnambool City Council in conjunction with state and federal government funding and assistance from local indigenous clans.
The film is expected to trigger wide interest and generate tourism and educational trips.
A new interpretive sign will be erected soon and an updated conservation management plan launched.
The council has called for public comment on a proposal to give the 1.4-hectare site a joint name of Point Ritchie/Moyjil. Submissions close on July 13.
According to Emma Dart, an environmental planner with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the site was already nationally significant.
“This is a very exciting project,” she told The Standard.
“It’s really, really old and has continuous occupation by traditional owners.
“We are expecting it to draw tourism bus trips and we are looking at educational opportunities through the film and through a link at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village.”
Extensive research has been ongoing since 1984 when local naturalist, the late Jim Henry, showed some unique cemented shells found at the point to the late Edmund Gill, a distinguished palaeontologist and geomorphologist.
The site’s significance was recognised in 2012 by a $200,000 federal grant for a management plan and the following year it was given state cultural heritage protection.
One of the scientists involved in research for many years is Warrnambool-based Dr John Sherwood, who told the audience at last week’s launch that a great deal of evidence had been found to indicate a very old site of human civilisation.
“It makes it by far the oldest in Victoria — if it’s identified as 80,000 years it would be the oldest in Australia and would have international significance,” he said.
“It needs to be protected.”
He told of research indicating Tower Hill erupted 35,000 years ago and that the Moyjil artefacts indicated local Aboriginal populations were in the area before the volcanic explosions.
Dr Sherwood said there were also indications of a very high sea level 125,000 years ago and a very low level 30,000 years ago.
Scientists were awaiting results from Adelaide University to see if geological marks on the rock were 125,000 or 80,000 years old, he said. Warrnambool Aboriginal elder Robert Lowe senior said he felt vindicated after his efforts to alert the government and council about the site’s significance were ignored 40 years ago.
The documentary can be seen on the new website www.moyjil.com.au