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Australian Indigenous Rock Art Collection Nominated for UN Heritage Status

FILE - Aboriginal groups march against planned changes in heritage protection laws, in Perth

Australia has nominated a culturally sensitive Aboriginal area that is home to the world's largest collection of rock art for United Nations heritage protection.

The Burrup Peninsula, 1,500 kilometers north of Perth, the Western Australian state capital, has 50,000 years of First Nations history, including millions of a type of rock carving called petroglyphs.

Perth Australia
Perth Australia

It is the world’s densest known concentration of hunter-gatherer petroglyphs.

The site has been nominated as a United Nations World Heritage site. If accepted by UNESCO, it would become the second site in Australia listed for World Heritage for its Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek told reporters Friday the site is a “natural wonder of the world.”

“This place has to be protected forever, and it has to be managed for the benefit of people who have connection to it but managed for the benefit of all of humanity," said Plibersek.

Reece Whitby, Western Australia’s environment minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Friday that the region has global significance.

“It is putting it on par with such things as Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China, and I think it deserves that status," said Whitby. "So, this is very important and it is a very emotional and important day for local traditional owners here.”

The peninsula is also home to a huge fertilizer plant. Indigenous campaigners have blamed industrial emissions for damaging the region’s ancient art.

A federal investigator is assessing the claims that First Nations heritage is under threat.

However, resources company Woodside, which operates in the region, has disputed any risk to its ancient heritage. It said in a statement that it had “demonstrated its ability to work alongside Aboriginal people and the heritage values of the peninsula.”

The site’s inclusion on the U.N. World Heritage List is expected to be considered by the World Heritage Committee next year.