AN ACTIVIST group is staking a claim on an iconic landmark near Stawell, saying it is sacred and important to Indigenous history.
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, or WAR, is calling on people who "damage" the Sisters Rocks to redirect their efforts into graffiti tagging "local churches and other significant colonial buildings and institutions".
Sisters Rocks, located off the Western Highway and three kilometres south of Stawell, have long been famous for their extensive collection of graffiti.
WAR members have taken to social media saying its members attended the site to clean-up and meet with Traditional Owners and "respectfully discuss the best ways forward to protecting this sacred women's site".
Australian Community Media has made attempts to contact the group to discuss the social media post.
The social media post continued to read: "It's a start and we encourage all to begin thinking about the emotional and spiritual impacts this has had on our peoples for generations to this point and now having to protect against the continued colonial abuse on the land and bodies.
"It was agreed that this site is of great significance to our peoples and that it needs immediate protection. We decided that we would hold off on blasting the rocks until further notice and to close off the site. We closed the site off with flagged rope from public to restrict access."
Stawell resident Sandi Rickard grew up in Stawell and recalls her first memories visiting the site with her grandparents.
"The site was a natural playground for a lot of residents as a child," she said.
"When I first noticed the flags, which were part of a fence, last week I wondered what was happening at the site.
"My initial thoughts were Northern Grampians Shire Council were doing some work there."
Ms Rickard said it wasn't until she noticed a Facebook post that she learned the reasoning behind the makeshift fence.
"I read the intention was the close the area from public access," she said.
"My heart just sank."
Ms Rickard said she was vocal to the group, expressing her views and concerns about limiting access to the area.
"I have had some comments back from the Facebook group themselves but it's all been pretty short and sweet," she said.
"I feel like my messages and concerns aren't getting heard."
Ms Rickard said she has noticed the fences had been taken down but they were still on the site.
"Originally the fences blocked the entrance into the site," she said.
"I went back out there and the fence has been taken down but it is still lying around and the one across the actual rocks is gone."
Ms Rickard said she hoped for an outcome which would be suitable for all parties involved.
"It would be disappointing if the next generation can't come out here and visit the site like most Stawell residents have when they were growing up," she said.
"No-one knows much about the history and I would love to see the site done up and treated as a tourist destination.
"What would be ideal would be some information boards about Indigenous history of the site and the later history from when settlement occurred in the area."
Northern Grampians Shire Council acting chief executive Vaughan Williams confirmed the land was gifted to the council for public purposes.
"No one has contacted council to discuss any issues they have with Sisters Rocks," Mr Williams said.
"We are happy to work with all stakeholders involved, would like to be involved and have an interest in the future of the site.
"I don't think there would be a great loss to a project of cleaning up the site, I think there could be some advantages having it restored to some sort of condition."
The WARs Facebook post continued: "We will continue works and clean up the broken glass covering the site over the next few months. We have also purchased tools to clean the site and surroundings and updates will be posted over the next few months in regards to the next clean up."
Former Stawell resident Craig Shuttleworth's family has lived in the area for many generations.
His early memories were visiting the public open space, which always had graffiti on the rocks.
"Sometimes, I personally felt the graffiti was vandalism of the natural environment," he said.
"But I suppose it's better than vandalising anything else, too.
"The photos and the site have drawn in national attention over the years - so it is a drawcard for tourism in Stawell."
Doing a small amount of research of the history of Stawell, Mr Shuttleworth said all the information he knew about Sisters Rocks was to do with settlement.
"I haven't found anything mentioning Indigenous history or anything said through history handed down through the family," he said.
"I'm not discrediting that there wasn't. Australia is a very big land and as I've got older, I'm more inquisitive with the history of different places.
"I've contacted the group on Facebook and have asked for someone to contact me to talk about the history but no one has been in touch."
Mr Shuttleworth is working with a number of groups and stakeholders where he lives in Melbourne to identify areas of significant value.
"I'm doing the work as part of my volunteer role at the CFA," he said.
"I want to have a list of all the places of significance in the area where I live.
"I think Stawell residents would be the same. They would like to know if there is more history to Sisters Rocks than what we already know and that should be shared."
Stawell police Station Commander Senior Sergeant Tevis Wright said graffiti was a criminal act.
"If the landowners report graffiti of any kind to us and wanted action taken, we'd conduct our investigations," he said.
"It is a summary offence. There is a specific offence category for graffiti.
"It crosses over with criminal damage as well. That generally involves higher value damage and when it's intentional as opposed to wilful damage where the intent might not be there but someone is reckless in their behaviour which causes damage."
Stawell Historical Society has a file on Sisters Rocks, with information collected from years of letters, newspaper articles and council documents.
Articles stated that preservation of the rocks could be one of the first successful attempts at nature conservation in Australia.
A sign, built by the Stawell Apex Club and Stawell Progress Association, says in 1862 the rocks were saved from demolition for building stone by Mr S.J Davidson.
In 1869 the site came under the protection of the Stawell Borough Council.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox each Friday morning from the Stawell Times-News. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Northern Grampians shire, sign up here.