Joint media release: Heritage funding to protect ancient Koonalda Cave

29 March 2023

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
The Hon Dr. Susan Close MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate, Environment and Water
Kyam Maher MLC, South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs

Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water, has announced more than $720,000 to support action to restore and preserve some of Australia’s oldest cultural heritage sites in South Australia, including Koonalda Cave.


Set within the Nullarbor Wilderness Protection Area in South Australia, Koonalda Cave is home to an array of ancient finger markings and unique archaeological deposits providing evidence of Aboriginal life dating back more than 22,000 years.


The grant will deliver $400,000 to protect and conserve Koonalda Cave in partnership with local Aboriginal people and the South Australian Government.


Funding to protect and conserve Koonalda Cave will involve working with Traditional Owners on the conservation management of the site including the installation of a state-of-the-art security system to protect the site into the future.


The Government’s Australian Heritage Grants program will also fund two additional South Australian projects.  These grants will protect places that offer a rare glimpse into our geological and historic heritage at the Ediacara Fossil Site at Nilpena and the Australian Cornish Mining site at Burra.


The projects are:

  • $180,000 for Paxton Square Cottages - external wall remediation and renewal delivered by Regional Council of Goyder at Burra Australian Cornish Mining site.
  • $150,000 for Nilpena Ediacara National Park Oral History Project and First Nations Stories delivered by the South Australian Government at Ediacara Fossil Site – Nilpena.


This funding is part of the $5.57 million Round 5 of the Australian Heritage Grants program to protect, restore and manage Australia’s unique National Heritage listed places.


In total, the Australian Government is investing more than $25 million through the Australian Heritage Grants program.


There are 120 places of outstanding natural, Indigenous or historic value on the National Heritage List, spanning every state and territory, from remote landscapes and ecosystems to the historic centres of our biggest cities.


Further information about the Australian Heritage Grants program can be found here:


Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water the Hon Tanya Plibersek:

“Our heritage makes Australia unique. We’re so lucky to live in a country that is home to some of the world’s most significant natural, Indigenous and historic heritage places, including the ancient Koonalda Cave in South Australia.


“It was devastating to hear about the vandalism that occurred late last year. This grant of $400,000 will assist in protecting the caves by installing enhanced barriers and a state-of-the-art security system.


“Koonalda Cave is home to unique archaeological deposits and ancient rock art dating back more than 22,000 years. We’re working with Traditional Owners, conservation groups, volunteers and the state government to ensure this precious site can still be visited by future generations.”


Quotes attributable to of South Australia Deputy Premier and Minister for Climate, Environment and Water Dr. Susan Close MP.

“Koonalda Cave is one of our state’s most ancient sites and has transformed our understanding of the extraordinarily long history of Aboriginal art and occupation in Australia.


"This important funding from the Albanese government will provide the infrastructure and monitoring needed to better protect this incredible site which was subject to unacceptable vandalism last year.


“It is important that local, state and federal governments work with Aboriginal people to preserve and protect heritage sites such as Koonalda Cave.”


Quotes attributable to South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher MLC.

“We are constantly surrounded by evidence and reminders of the oldest living culture on the planet. South Australia is home to many places of rich cultural heritage sites of particular importance to Aboriginal communities.


“It is crucial that these important places are protected and the project at Koonalda Cave funded by the Australian Heritage Grants program will provide meaningful action.


“This action will help to further protect preserve the stories of our Aboriginal communities, while drawing upon the vast knowledge of the Traditional Owners who know these lands so well.”