Natural and Cultural Heritage Theme Report
Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Jane Lennon, Jane Lennon and Associates Pty Ltd, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06752 3
South Coast Midden
But there are other places. This was yours,
Old people: humbly we seek to share it. Blood
Semen, sweat, dung, tears; bones of the fish,
Fur of the beasts we've killed and eaten: ashes
Of cooking fires that warmed us while we talked
And touched, slept, wrestled with love and grief,
Cried or wept beneath indifferent stars
Cold dawns or leaching rains: these - yours and ours -
Have mingled with this soil. There, by that tree
Naked under the sun in simple joy
We found our love; there on the sand our children
Laughed, licking sea-salt from naked skin.
We cannot ask forgiveness - but this site
Bears our name now, as well as yours.
Environmental indicators reported on in this section.
|NCH IA 1.3||Net population movement of local (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) people away from rural lands and townships|
|NCH IA 4.2||
Number and total area of protected areas or individual indigenous places under:
(a) the primary control of local communities
(b) the control of traditional owners
(c) joint management regimes
(d) designated as Aboriginal lands managed by resident communities according to traditional canons of practice in caring for country
Number of places (sample) where Indigenous people are involved in heritage management decision making by virtue of:
(a) Indigenous land ownership
(b) joint management
(c) recognised custodianship
(d) direct consultation
|NCH IC.6||Number of trained Indigenous heritage professionals or custodial representatives employed by government heritage agencies, or Indigenous people serving on councils or boards of such agencies, who are actively involved in the management and/or administration of Indigenous heritage places|
Number of Indigenous communities/organisations establishing:
(a) 'keeping places'
(b) cultural centres
(c) site/place databases
(d) heritage tours, trails/walks
For at least 60 000 years (Thorne et al. 1999) Indigenous people have had control of their own heritage and of decisions about their country and their culture. It is therefore especially important that the current situation is assessed adequately as part of reporting on the State of the Environment to illustrate Indigenous connection with country. This requires an assessment of the extent of Indigenous presence at heritage places, and of Indigenous involvement in or control over management of Indigenous heritage places and objects and in the decisions affecting their country and the presentation of their cultural heritage.
There is a diversity of ways in which cultural heritage is maintained, particularly when Indigenous people have moved away from their traditional country. There are occasions when an Indigenous group has temporarily, or in the longer term, cared for land for which other Indigenous groups have primary responsibility.
In many areas of Australia, Indigenous people live on and maintain close links with their traditional lands. In many cases land or Native Title rights associated with land have been recognised. In these cases traditional systems of control over heritage still exist to some degree, or are being revived.
Pastoralist Camilla Cowley and Gladys Tybingoompa at Parliament House, Canberra, with the Sea of Hands in 1997.
An initiative of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, the Sea of Hands was developed as a way for people to show their personal support for Native Title rights. The Sea of Hands has since toured nationally. Native Title, along with a range of other contemporary issues facing Indigenous peoples, are explored in the National Museum of Australia.
Source: Andrew Meares/The Sydney Morning Herald and National Museum of Australia
In the past there was movement of people (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) away from rural lands and townships. However Indigenous population mobility patterns more recently approximate circulation rather than migration with the development of localised rather than national networks of movement (Moran 2000). There is debate about whether such movements of Indigenous people may lead to potential loss of regular or seasonal local caring for places of traditional significance to custodians.
According to the 1996 Census, 60% of Indigenous people lived in urban areas (i.e. in cities and towns larger than 10 000 people), and 40% lived in smaller towns, on rural properties or in remote settlements (see Table 5 in the Human Settlements Theme Report). The scale of the situation of the urban Indigenous people living away from their country needs to be recognised.
Because of these differences in where Indigenous people live, it is also inappropriate to treat the issues surrounding Indigenous cultural heritage as identical for all communities across Australia. There is a diversity of views:
- between the aspirations of metropolitan and rural Indigenous organisations,
- between groups that own land and those that do not, and
- between those who have statutory obligations to protect material culture collections, sites within other reserve lands, and cooperative enterprises, and those who do not.
A good example of a location that has significance to many Indigenous groups is that of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. The Tent Embassy is the focal point of Indigenous people's political protest against white domination (Australian Heritage Commission Official Statement of Significance 1987; see http://www.ahc.gov.au/cgi-bin/heritage/register/site.pl?018843 ). The site is the focus of Indigenous people's concerns over 'land rights, sovereignty, autonomy, equality and self government'. It is a site chosen by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and the Torres Strait for this protest and hence has a significance beyond that of 'country' (Robinson 1996, pp. 241-61).
The process of traditional lands becoming 'orphan country' has been documented - the Wirangu-speaking Yalata people are displaced and landless because the Yalata reserve on the Nullarbor is not what they regard as their own territory (White 1985, p. 226). Surviving Wiragu speakers now living to the east at centres like Ceduna and Yalata have agreed to share rights and obligations to sacred sites in that area of the Nullarbor. The Anmatyerre experience in resettlement and caring for country has been documented by Young (1996, pp. 223-46). Besides direct management of heritage sites on Indigenous land, a range of ways for caring for Indigenous cultural heritage are developing.
The Aboriginal Embassy Site in Canberra, ACT.
The site is unique because it is the only Indigenous heritage place in Australia recognised nationally as a site representing political struggle for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Source: Andrew Tatnell, Australian Heritage Commission
Members of some Indigenous communities in south-eastern Australia have dual obligations and relationships to land. Almost always they have a close connection with the land from which they came prior to their recent migration. In addition and with approval of the Traditional owners, many communities have taken on very seriously the responsibility for 'orphan country' where they now live and whose original Indigenous people no longer live in that place.
Some significant places in 'orphan country' are being protected by locally resident Indigenous people without ties to that particular place. For example, many Aboriginal people are strongly attached to regional historical sites such as old missions which are not part of their traditional country. There are differences in views about how such sites should be preserved to maintain their heritage values.
In Queensland there have been considerable movements of Indigenous people in the past away from their traditional lands, with a consequent rise in historical associations of these people with other areas. The historically associated people then frequently take on the job of looking after cultural heritage places in the local area. This is the case, for example, in central western Queensland, where historically associated Indigenous people in Barcaldine have taken on the role of looking after The Palace (formerly Blacks Palace) Designated Landscape Area and other cultural heritage places in the region. This role of the Barcaldine Aboriginal community has also been informally sanctioned by the Palace Management Committee, which consists of the relevant Traditional Owner groups and representatives of the government departments.
The connections between Indigenous peoples and their traditional lands and other sites are complex and have led to a diversity of ways to care for country. These arrangements are evolving to meet the needs of particular circumstances and locations.
The next subsection addresses some contemporary ways by which Indigenous communities are involved in decision-making about their cultural heritage or are controlling their country.