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Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape, Arthur River Rd, Arthur River, TAS, Australia

Photographs None
List National Heritage List
Class Indigenous
Legal Status Listed place (08/02/2013)
Place ID 105751
Place File No 6/02/031/0052
Summary Statement of Significance
The Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape represents the best evidence of an Aboriginal economic adaptation which included the development of a semi-sedentary way of life with people moving seasonally up and down the north west coast of Tasmania. This way of life began approximately 1 900 years ago and lasted until the 1830s.  Dotted along the wind-swept coastline of the Western Tasmania Cultural Landscape are the remains of numerous hut depressions found in Aboriginal shell middens.  These huts and middens are the remnants of an unusual, specialised and more sedentary Aboriginal way of life which was based on the hunting of seals and land mammals, and the gathering of shellfish.
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
During the late Holocene Aboriginal people on the west coast of Tasmania and the southwestern coast of Victoria developed a specialised and more sedentary way of life based on a strikingly low level of coastal fishing and dependence on seals, shellfish and land mammals (Lourandos 1968; Bowdler and Lourandos 1982).
 
This way of life is represented by Aboriginal shell middens which lack the remains of bony fish, but contain ‘hut depressions’ which sometimes form semi-sedentary villages. Nearby some of these villages are circular pits in cobble beaches which the Aboriginal community believes are seal hunting hides (David Collett pers. comm.; Stockton and Rodgers 1979; Cane 1980; AHDB RNE Place ID 12060).
 
The Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape has the greatest number, diversity and density of Aboriginal hut depressions in Australia. The hut depressions together with seal hunting hides and middens lacking fish bones on the Tarkine coast (Legge 1929:325;  Pulleine 1929:311-312;  Hiatt 1967:191; Jones 1974:133;  Bowdler 1974:18-19;  Lourandos 1970: Appendix 6;  Stockton and Rodgers 1979;  Ranson 1980; Stockton 1984b:61; Collett et al 1998a and 1998b) are a remarkable expression of the specialised and more sedentary Aboriginal way of life.
Description
The Western Tasmania Cultural Landscape covers approximately 21,000 ha. Much of the area is remote and uninhabited with its remoteness being a significant factor in the area’s relatively low level of resource use since European settlement.
 
The coastline is made up of Quaternary dune fields and rocky shores. A number of coastal benches and platforms are considered to record a history of changing sea levels during Tertiary and Quaternary times.
 
During the late Holocene, the beaches, rocky shores and coastal dune fields of western Tasmania provided the setting for a specialised and semi-sedentary Aboriginal way of life based on a strikingly low level of coastal fishing and a dependence on seals, shellfish and land mammals. Along the coast, a suite of sites including large and complex middens, stone artefact scatters, hut depressions, stone arrangements and petroglyphs provides evidence for this way of life. These cultural heritage values are important to the Tasmanian Aboriginal community.

History
Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape - History
The region in which the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape occurs is commonly known as the Tarkine, which is named after the Tarkine [Tarkiner] tribe, the traditional owners of the Sandy Cape region located on the west coast of Tasmania (McFarlane 2008:220). The north west coast was also inhabited by three other tribes, namely the Pee.rapper (West Point), the Manegin (Arthur River mouth) and the Peternidic (Pieman River mouth)(McFarlane 2008:220). These Aboriginal tribes inhabited the coastal areas of the Tarkine for at least 4 000 years; the date for the oldest shell midden located at the mouth of the Arthur River (Stockton 1984b:61). During the last 2,000 years, Aboriginal tribes along the west coast, in particular the northwest tribes, exploited the rich and varied resources of the coast and the scrubby hinterland that fringed it.

During the summer months, semi-sedentary ‘villages’ were established at key resource rich locations such as West Point (known as Nongor) which was located next to a elephant seal colony (Plomley 1966:184;  Jones 1967). Excavation of West Point midden has provided an important insight into Aboriginal life on the northwest Tasmanian coast (Jones 1966). During the summer months food, in particular seals and coastal birds, was available in its greatest amount leading to the development of semi-sedentary villages (Jones 1974, 1975:3, 1978:36, 1981:7/88). Winter on the other hand was a time when food was scarer, forcing the village groups to disband into smaller groups which fanned out moving up and down the northwest coast (Jones 1978:36).
 
Aboriginal people also used the hinterland, an area thick with tea tree scrub in a complex of swamps, to hunt terrestrial mammals (wallabies, small marsupials), lizards and waterbirds, to gather plant foods, quarry spongolite for stone tools and to trade for ochre (Jones 1981:7/88). The Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape also contains extensive scatters of stone artefacts, rockshelters, human burials, petroglyphs of geometric forms and stone arrangements which add to our knowledge of Aboriginal life during this time (Jones 1965 and 1980; Stockton and Rogers 1979; Lourandos and Bowdler 1982; Stockton 1982; Cosgrove 1983 and 1990; Flood 1983 and 1990; Richards and Sutherland-Richards 1992; Collett et al 1998).

The first recorded sighting of the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape region by Europeans was when George Bass and Matthew Flinders circumnavigated Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) in 1798. In 1803, British settlement began in Van Dieman’s Land and explorations into the traditional lands of the Tasmanian Aboriginals were initiated (Plomley 1991:3; McFarlane 2008:xi). Very quickly, Aboriginal people’s land began to be acquired on the basis that Van Diemen’s Land was without settled inhabitants (McFarlane 2008:xi).

James Kelly sailed up the west coast in 1815/16 and in 1823 Charles Hardwicke sailed from Launceston to the Arthur River, describing ‘rich grass pasture’. Later in 1824, James Hobb landed at the Pieman River noting the stands of timber.

The ethnographic records from Jorgen Jorgenson and George Augustus Robinson make numerous references to Aboriginal huts including their location, construction, size and use along the entire west coast (Plomley 1966; 1991, Mitchell 1988:14). The frames of these huts were commonly made with pliable tree stems and less commonly with whale rib bones. The frame supported walls made of bark, grass or turf:
 
their huts…..are in the form of a semi-circular dome and are very commodious and quite weather proof.  They are called GAR.DOWN….Some of these huts are from ten to twelve feet in diameter and eight feet in height.  The door or entrance is a small hole fourteen inches wide and two feet high, and this aperture is made to answer the threefold purpose of door, window and chimney….Their huts or cottages are constructed by first placing a long stick in the ground and bending it over and forcing the other end into the ground at the distance required for the diameter of the hut….this is continued until they have a sufficient quantity to support the weight of thatch that is to be put on.  After the frame or skeleton of a hut is completed they thatch…..[with] long grass which they call NEME.ME.NE…..Some of these huts are lined with the bark of tea-tree and are remarkable warm (Plomley 1966:175).
 
There is also a detailed account by Robinson on 28 February 1834 where the Tarkiner attacked the Tommyginny:
 
They told my natives that they had fought the TOMMYGINNY but a short time previous……and that one of their people, LOETH.GIDDIC brother to HEE.DEEK, had been killed and that they the TARKINE had also killed one of the TOMMYGINNY, LIN.NER.MER.RY.ROON, a big man…...they and the TOMMYGINNY have been at amity and at war alternately for a long period;  that on this occasion the TOMMYGINNY came to them on a visit and brought with them a quantity of red ochre…….They asked the TOMMYGINNY for some red ochre which they refused, which was the ground for the quarrel. It was then resolved by the TARKINENER to attack the TOMMYGINNY, and which was done accordingly and took place at the place of my encampment at Sandy Cape (Plomley 1966:854).
 
Other Europeans also witnessed aspects of Aboriginal way of life, in particular hunting and gathering practices. In 1921, J. Kelly reported how Aboriginal women hunted and killed seals on King George Rocks:
 
We gave the women each a club that we had used to kill seals with. They went to the water’s edge and wet themselves all over their head and body as they said to prevent the seals from smelling them. As they walked along the rocks they were very cautious not to (go) windward of them as they said a seal would sooner believe his nose than his eyes when a man or woman came near him. The six women walked into the water, two and two, and swam to three rocks about fifty yards from the shore. Each rock had about nine or ten seals on it. They were all laying apparently asleep. Two women went to each rock with their clubs in hand….After they had been lying on the rocks for nearly an hour the sea occasionally washing over them and they were quiet naked. We could not tell their meaning for remaining so long. All of a sudden the women arose up on their seats, their clubs at arms length. Each struck a seal on the nose which killed him. And in an instant they all jumped up as if by magic and killed one more….Each of them dragged a seal into the water and swam with it to the rock where we was standing and then swam back to the rock and brought one more each which made twelve seals (Kelly 1921:177 in Hiatt 1967:207-8).
 
Women also dived for huge quantities of abalone (Notohaliotis) and warreners (Subninella) which made a large contribution to their diet (Jones 1981:7/88). There are also ethnographic accounts of shellfish collection practices.
 
Hitherto we had but a faint idea of the pains the women take to procure food requisite for the subsistence of their families. They each took a basket, and were followed by their daughters, who did the same. Getting on the rocks, that projected into the sea, they plunged from them to the bottom in search of shell fish….They did this repeatedly until their baskets were full. Most of the them were provided with a little bit of wood, cut into the form of a spatula…and with these they separated from beneath the rocks at great depths, very large sea ears…They also caught large lobsters which they had killed as soon as they had been caught (Labillaridére 1800:309-310 in Hiatt 1967:127-8).

Even though Robinson successfully completed his mission in 1834, there was still a number of small family groups of Aboriginal people living in and around the region (Plomley 2008:959-960). On 10 December 1842 Mr William Gibson, the newly appointed Superintendent of the VDLC, informed the Court of Directors that:

the natives who had hitherto been so troublesome were captured upon the 4th instant near the River Arthur and forwarded them yesterday to Launceston, their party consisted of a middle-aged man and female, two males about 18 and 20 years of age, and three male children between 3 and 7 years old (in Murray 1993:514).

Records indicate that the man and woman were John Lanna (also spelt Lanne) and his wife Nabrunga and their five children Banna, Pieti, Albert, William and Frank (Murray 1993:514). Gibson wrote that the Aboriginal family was captured near the Arthur River by sealers and that they were the last Aboriginal people ‘at large in …[the] colony’ to be removed (in Murray 1993:514). The family was removed to Flinders Island and by 1847 the removal of Aboriginal people from the Tasmanian mainland to Flinders Island ceased (Ryan 1996:199, 202). William and Banna were the only family members to have survived internment at Flinders Island (Plomey 1987:882). William was moved to Oyster Cove south of Hobart with 46 other Aboriginal people (Ryan 1996:203). William lived until 1869, leaving behind his wife Truganini (Petrow 1997:93, 94). At the time, William was considered to have been the last full-blood Aboriginal man to die in Tasmania (Ryan 1996:214).
 
Throughout the period of European colonisation of Tasmania, the land and sea in and around the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape have always held a special significance for Tasmanian Aboriginal people (Ryan 1996). Ever since their removal from traditional lands the Aboriginal community has maintained a strong interest in and connection to their country, actively petitioning the British and Tasmanian Governments in pursuit of the return of land and recognition of land rights. In the 1970s the Aboriginal community formed representative organisations to actively campaign for their recognition as the first Tasmanians and for their rights. In 1973 and 1976, the Tasmanian Government recognised the cultural significance of the petroglyphs at Sundown Point and the shell middens and hut depressions at West Point by declaring them State Reserves (www.parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?id=5718). Aboriginal people continue to play a key role in the management of these places to ensure that they are preserved for future generations.
 
In 1977 a petition for the recognition of prior Aboriginal ownership, return of all sacred sites, mutton bird islands and Crown land in addition to compensation was presented to Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Tasmania (Ryan 1996:166). Another attempt for land rights was made with the Tasmanian Government in 1985 which included the request to return Mount Cameron West, just to the north of the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape  (Ryan 1996:275-6). It wasn’t until 1995, when the Tasmanian government passed the Aboriginal Lands Act that Perminghana (Mount Cameron West), was returned with another 11 places across Tasmania to the Aboriginal community because of their cultural importance. The Aboriginal community continue to pursue the return of land at West Point and Sundown Point as these places have a particularly strong connection for them.
Condition and Integrity
The condition of the Aboriginal shell middens along the west coast is varied; however the most common disturbance is related to off road vehicle and bike use, cattle grazing, development (telephone tower installation and shack construction) and deflation through exposure to wind and rain (Collett et al 1998a and 1998b). During inspections of some of these hut depressions sites by Collett et al in 1998, they found that a large number of the huts depressions and the middens where stable and in places covered by grass. Some of the hut depressions have been directly affected by the disturbance listed above (Collett et al 1998a and 1998b), however the current status of these sites is unknown and a source states that the middens at West Point have not been inspected since the1990s but at the time were stable and covered in grass (O’Connor 2007). A number of hut depression sites have also been subject to archaeological excavation including a hut at Sundown Point (TASI 2421), completely excavated by Ranson in the 1970s (Jones 1980:159;  Stockton 1984a:28;  Richards and Sutherland-Richards 1992:28, 31) and part of a hut depression at West Point midden was excavated by Jones between 1964-5 (Jones 1965).

Location
About 21,000 ha, located in north-west Tasmania, comprising;
 
(a)  That part of Arthur Pieman Conservation Area to the north of Arthur River and within 2   km of MLWM (Mean Low Water Mark  [the extent of the sea or an estuary at a local mean low tide]).
 
(b) The whole of Kings Run Private Nature Reserve, the whole of West Point State Reserve and the whole of Sundown Point State Reserve.
 
(c)  An area bounded by a line commencing at the most south-western corner of Pieman River State Reserve (approximate MGA point Zone 55G CP 326670E 5383605N),
·                     then northerly via the Pieman River State Reserve boundary to the north western corner of the reserve at approximate MGA point 326565E 5385305N,
·                     then northerly via the MLWM to its intersection with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 303310E 5452240N,
·                     then easterly via the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary to its intersection with MGA northing 5452800N (MGA point 304578E 5452800N),
·                      then generally southerly only including that part of the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area within two kilometres of the MLWM to a point on the north western boundary of the Pieman River State Reserve (approximate MGA point 327868E 5387014N),
·                      then directly to the intersection of the Pieman River State Reserve with the northern boundary of Land Parcel 1/238462 (approximate MGA point 328393E 5385834N),
·                      then westerly and southerly via the northern and western boundaries of Land Parcel 1/238462 to the north western corner of Land Parcel 1/224646,
·                     then southerly, easterly and northerly via the boundaries of Land Parcel 1/224646 to its intersection with the boundary of Land Parcel 1/238462,
·                      then generally southerly via the western boundaries of Land Parcels 1/238462, 22/118557 and 1/101724 to the south western corner of Land Parcel 1/101724,
·                      then easterly and northerly via the southern and eastern boundaries of Land Parcel 1/101724 and easterly via the southern boundary of Land Parcel 22/118557 to its south eastern corner,
·                      then southerly directly to a point two kilometres inland from MLWM (approximate MGA point 328412E 5382343N),
·                      then generally south easterly via a line two kilometres inland from MLWM (but excluding Land Parcels 3/111147 and 1/109376) to the intersection with Duck Creek (approximate MGA point 336500mE 5374775mN),
·                      then downstream via the middle thread of Duck Creek to the MLWM,
·                      then northerly via the MLWM to its intersection with the alignment of the southern boundary of LPI 1/238463 (approximate MGA point 326685E 5380460N),
·                     then easterly, northerly and westerly via the alignment and the southern, eastern and northern boundaries of LPI 1/238463 to its north west corner,
·                      then westerly via the westerly alignment of the northern boundary of LPI 1/238463 to its intersection with the MLWM (approximate MGA point 326530E 5381290N),
·                     then northerly via the MLWM to the commencement point.

The following five areas are excluded from the above:
 
Exclusion 1.
An area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of  MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 306065E 5432790N,
-        then via straight lines joining the following MGA points consecutively: 306865E 5432795N, 306397E 5434010N,
-        then directly to the intersection of the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary with the MLWM at approximate MGA point 305980E 5433760N,
-         then southerly via the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary to the point of commencement.
 
Exclusion 2
An area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 306235E 5434320N,
-        then via straight lines joining the following MGA points consecutively:
-        306270E 5434265N, 306280E 5434235N, 306290E 5434240N, 306315E 5434205N, 306483E 5434382N, 306495E 5434400N,
-        then directly to the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 306370E 5434460N,
-        then southerly via the MLWM to the point of commencement.
 
Exclusion 3.
An area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 305485E 5438560N,
-        then via straight lines joining the following MGA points consecutively:
305547E 5438827N, 305560E 5438843N, 305552E 5438851N, 305611E 5439119N, 305647E 5439096N, 305691E 5439164N, 305629E 5439204N, 305657E 5439332N, 305397E 5439778N, 305224E 5439700N, 305191E 5439710N, 305182E 5439682N, 305184E 5439682N,
-        then directly to the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point MGA point 305150E 5439665N,
-        then southerly via the MLWM to the point of commencement.

Exclusion 4.
An area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 304840E 5441105N,
-        then via straight lines joining the following MGA points consecutively:
304890E 5440970N, 304865E 5440965N, 304890E 5440920N, 304910E 5440930N, 304935E 5440860N, 305165E 5440995N, 305165E 5441185N,
-        then directly to the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 304910E 5441185N,
-        then southerly via the MLWM to the point of commencement.
 
Exclusion 5.
An area bounded by a line commencing at the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 304295E 5443425N,
-        then via straight lines joining the following MGA points consecutively:
304765E 5443425N, 304765E 5444285N,
-        then directly to the intersection of the MLWM with the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area boundary at approximate MGA point 304495E 5444285N,
-        then southerly via the MLWM to the point of commencement.
 
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Report Produced  Wed Sep 17 07:17:39 2014