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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Photos from a visit to Lismore’s Sleeping Lizard

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One of the shadowy faces of the Sleeping Lizard. Photo David Lowe.

Last weekend a group of photographers and conservationists made a trek up Banyam Baigham, Lismore’s Sleeping Lizard, to capture images of the landmark reptile for posterity.

Bundjalung man Uncle Mickey Ryan was very happy to be showing the group the country of his childhood. Photo David Lowe.

The field trip to the southern section of what whitefellas call the North Lismore Plateau was held last Saturday, and was also a chance to celebrate the handing back of that place to the Traditional Custodians, the Widjabul Wia-bal people of the Bundjalung Nation.

The group found the vulnerable species, Thorny Pea, (Pedleya acanthoclada), on Banyam Baigham. Photo Hugh Nicholson.

Bundjalung Elder Uncle Mickey Ryan guided the group, which included Nan and Hugh Nicholson, Andrya Hart, Duncan Wilson and David Lowe. The event was organised by Dot Moller from the North Lismore Plateau Protection Association (NLPPA).

Conservationist Nan Nicholson exploring the forest on the Sleeping Lizard’s head. Photo David Lowe.

Ms Moller said the area is a significant Widjabul Wia-bal place that is home to at least three endangered birds. ‘The historic handback was the start of a process that may take some time to complete. We have to wait for the Lismore Council to resolve legal formalities and practical issues regarding the hand over.’

A list of the species identified on the day, compiled by Nan Nicholson.

Uncle Mickey Ryan, who visits the site fairly regularly, said he always feels energised when out on country, especially the North Lismore Plateau, as it is his connection to country. ‘Our culture and heritage is so essential,’ he said. ‘It links the past and the present, it is a part of our cultural identity with a sense of belonging to the country.

‘The protection and conservation of our heritage is so important in keeping the identity, health and well being for our future generations.’

David Lowe, Duncan Wilson, Uncle Mickey Ryan, Andrya Hart, Hugh Nicholson and Nan Nicholson made the trip up to visit the Sleeping Lizard. Photo Dot Moller.

Conservationist Nan Nicholson said the dry rainforest around Lismore has always has had the greatest species diversity of all the rainforest types. ‘The Sleeping Lizard would have been no exception,’ she said.

‘It was remarkable that in just a short walk in a very limited area through forest that had been completely cleared we found over 40 native species of rainforest regrowing. With the adjacent eucalypt ecotones, the diversity must have been impressive indeed.

‘There is no reason why this could not be re-created.’

The Sleeping Lizard is home to many beautiful rock formations. Photo David Lowe.

Another purpose of the group adventure was to capture images. The photographic results of the day will make up an exhibition Pictures from the Sleeping Lizard which will open this Friday and be available for two weeks.

Ms Moller said that COVID permitting, everyone should try to get there. ‘Not only will you be supporting a volunteer run Community Gallery, but you can take a look at something most of us have never seen before.’

Uncle Mickey said he was really happy to share the experience with the group. ‘It felt so good taking people up on our hill,’ he said. ‘It’s all about sharing and caring, which is a big part of our culture.’

For more information about the exhibition, visit: the Serpentine Gallery website:www.serpentinearts.org.


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  1. Thanks Eve, for this article. It was so moving up on the plateau, hearing Uncle Mickey talking about the meaning of this place.
    As an environmental activist for many years I have had my share of failures. But this is nothing to what our Indigenous citizens have had to bear for so much longer.
    Surely it is time to redress some of the gross imbalance and let them keep their remaining special places.

  2. Was that a large camphor laurel – perhaps deceased, I hope – in the pic with Nan in the forest? What a scourge they are!

    • I think it was two camphors close together. And not dead.

      Strangely enough I am not totally opposed to camphors. They provide high quality food through winter for fruit pigeons (although they also crowd out the other species that would also provide food for pigeons).

      When the pigeons first switched to eating camphor fruit it made their flesh inedible so they were no longer worth shooting.

  3. Would like to know ,when and how ,the sleeping lizard legend was identified and by whom? As a flight over the area doesn’t really reveal any outstanding topography that is easily recognisable as a such. Perhaps there is someone that can throw some light on my query.

  4. Thankyou for such an in depth informative news to the wider public. I will make sure to let all my friends and family far and wide around the world get to see what is still being allowed to happen. “No more destruction of Places of such Significance”.

  5. I had Uncle Mickey Ryan on my radio show on NimFM years ago regarding this issue. I’m glad to see he and his team have protected their sacred site!


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