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
Indigenous control of Indigenous heritage (continued)
Apart from Indigenous communities holding the freehold title of their lands, many have had their rights to their country recognised following the High Court decision on Native Title (the Mabo judgment) in a series of management arrangements, which vary with the tenure system of the relevant State or Territory.
Gurindji Wave Hill Walk Off celebrations at Victoria River Downs, NT.
Sharon Sullivan, former AHC Director, addressing the 30th anniversary celebrations of the 1966 Wave Hill walk-off. The Walk Off sites were RNE listed in 1998.
Source: Australian Heritage Commission
During the reporting period:
- In South Australia the Maralinga Tjarutja people have been granted most of the Woomera Prohibited Area, the Antakirinja people from Coober Pedy own Mable Creek, Mt Willoughby and Mt Clarence Station and the Emu test site is owned by the Maralinga people.
- In New South Wales, Mootwingee National Park, Mootwingee Historic Site and Cotaraundee Nature Reserve were handed over to the Wiimpatja people and leased back to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to be managed as Mutawintji National Park. Negotiations have commenced in relation to Mount Grenfell Historic Site and Biamanga National Park.
- In Queensland, as acknowledgement of a language group association, the Darumbal Community in Rockhampton have been granted limited access to a portion of Shoalwater Bay Training Area. As all Torres Strait Islands either have Native Title, or will have it shortly, it can be said that these sites are under the control of the Native Title holders, although the current disputes over commercial fishing in these waters raises issues of real control and ownership.
In addition, there are currently nine Designated Landscape Areas under Section 17 of the Cultural Record (Landscapes Queensland and Queensland Estate) Act 198. These are areas which have been set aside for their Indigenous heritage values specifically, and are not located on National Parks or on lands reserved for other conservation purposes. There are also 12 Aboriginal places which are included as various reserves under the Land Act. Indigenous people are involved in advisory committees for these reserves. (No data was supplied for other States and Territories to enable a comparison with the Queensland situation.)
Through this program Indigenous landowners commit themselves to manage their lands for the protection of natural and cultural features in accordance with internationally recognised standards and guidelines. To date, 12 Indigenous Protected Areas have been declared over Aboriginal lands covering almost 2.6 million hectares, adding significantly to the National Reserve System (see Table 20). The Indigenous Protected Areas program is funded through the Commonwealth Government's Natural Heritage Trust and funds management plans to protect natural and cultural features and to contribute to conserving biodiversity.
The Indigenous Protected Areas model is attractive because it provides funding and support in recording Indigenous cultural heritage; and in developing management plans that address issues relating to the infrastructure, conservation and training. Indigenous organisations may also seek to have funding provided for the training of staff and conservation works; logistical support for the management of an area is often missing in the usual joint management agreements. Although Indigenous Protected Areas are most frequently declared on Indigenous-owned land, they may also be negotiated as joint management agreements on government-owned land, and in a few cases support has been provided to a community in dealing with a State government parks authority. The Indigenous Protected Areas model is therefore often seen as positively contributing to the self-management and conservation of Indigenous cultural heritage places.
Four of Australia's 14 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List are also inscribed for their Indigenous cultural World Heritage values:
- the Tasmanian Wilderness,
- the Willandra Lakes Region,
- Kakadu National Park, and
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Management of the natural and cultural World Heritage values of listed places generally is undertaken in a cooperative manner between the Commonwealth and State or Territory governments involved, and includes input from local communities.
During the reporting period, best-practice management arrangements involving Indigenous partners were initiated or completed for some of these areas:
- In 1995 three archaeological cave sites in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage property at Ballawinne, Kuti Kina and Wargata Mina were returned to the Aboriginal community. This was the first time an Aboriginal community in Australia was given both title and sole management responsibility for land in a World Heritage property.
- In 1996 the long-awaited Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Property Plan of Management was released. It was developed through extensive community consultation with the Community Management Council, the Technical and Scientific Advisory Committee, the Elder's Council and the Steering Committee.
- The Kakadu National Park 15-member Board of Management now has a majority of Indigenous members. The potential threat to the natural and cultural heritage values of Kakadu National Park from uranium mining in the Jabiluka lease area has been a major controversy in the last five years. Fire management has also been an issue between the various managing parties.
- The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park nine-member Board of Management now has a majority of Indigenous members. The Plan of Management released in 2000 gives direction and sets up structures to manage Aboriginal cultural heritage to ensure the protection of the World Heritage values of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is the first bilingual plan being published in both English and Pitjantjatjara and illustrated with local Indigenous drawings and diagrams.
Other World Heritage properties have Indigenous cultural values even though these were not part of the rationale for their listing and Indigenous people are involved in managing those values on-site. For example, during the reporting period direct consultation has been undertaken about the management of cultural heritage issues on Fraser Island, including the erection of fences to protect sites.
Fencing to protect vegetation from impact of trampling from Uluru sunset viewers. Part of joint management arrangements.
Source: Jane Lennon (2000)
In the 1990s the Commonwealth recognised the need to develop standards for the management of Indigenous cultural heritage. Several Departments - including the Department of Communications and the Arts, Australian Heritage Commission, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Australian Nature Conservation Agency and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission - established a consultancy to develop best-practice standards for the conservation of Indigenous cultural heritage places. The resultant document, Draft Guidelines for the Protection, Management and Use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Place, was consistent with the Burra Charter and the Australian Natural Heritage Charter.
While the Draft Guidelines have proved useful, they are in need of revision to take account of recent changes in cultural heritage management practices brought about by the widespread recognition of the Indigenous rights in relation to heritage. The current Draft Guidelines are also long and difficult to use, and while they promote consultation they do not necessarily encourage active management of places by Indigenous people.
In April and May 2000 the Australian Heritage Commission brought together a small working group of Indigenous people from around Australia (referred to as the Indigenous Focus Group) to help in the initial stages of revising and rewriting the Draft Guidelines. This has resulted in a new and very different document that has the draft title of Respecting Indigenous Heritage Places: A practical guide. The Australian Heritage Commission is currently circulating this version for comment.
The purpose of this new document is to assist developers, researchers, cultural heritage professionals and other land users who have to deal with issues relating to the identification, management and use of Indigenous heritage places. It is also hoped that Indigenous communities will be able to use this guide, in association with their own protocols for consultation, to ensure that the right thing is done in relation to their heritage places.
An Indigenous community has taken control of an area of land by default in New South Wales, where one organisation developed a heritage trail on land that is owned by a State instrumentality and managed by the local council. The community felt that the council did not take good care of the area. They organised community members to maintain the land and build a heritage trail that deliberately avoids the heritage sites. Now there are a number of guides available to take groups on the heritage trail. The walks are mainly done for school groups. They teach the children about bush tucker, medicines, Indigenous weapons and tools, and about the history of the area. After five years of negotiations, the community succeeded in having the land handed back to them.
Evidence would suggest that most funding agencies have a policy of Indigenous consultation or referral, relating to Indigenous heritage management, but in reality there is probably quite a difference in the degree of meaningful involvement between communities and/or jurisdictions.
The involvement of Indigenous representation in World Heritage property management has been outlined above, and the Department of Defence has indicated that five of its regions (Western Australia, South Australia, southern NSW-ACT, Victoria-Tasmania, and southern Queensland) involve Indigenous communities or it consults with them by virtue of recognised custodianship. Their involvement ranges from consultation with the relevant local people at archaeological sites to involvement of Indigenous people in heritage management decision-making on Defence Commonwealth lands or membership on Environmental Advisory Committees.
From the Knowles survey it was found that all but two of the organisations surveyed had a set of protocols - guidelines regarding who in the Indigenous community involved should be consulted, when and how - in place, but often the protocols were not observed by outside organisations, including government departments. This would suggest that the strategy of developing protocols to ensure that Indigenous cultural heritage will be protected in culturally appropriate ways is not necessarily an effective response to the pressures that confront those managing Indigenous cultural heritage. (See also the case study on 'Indigenous involvement in protection'.)
The preferred option for Indigenous communities is to control their land in order to maintain the cultural heritage. Most Indigenous organisations recognise that this is often an unrealistic goal. As a result, some communities have entered into joint management arrangements on land that they might otherwise not be able to access. Although these arrangements take a number of forms and can be with anybody, from a private landholder, a local council, a State or Territory government instrumentality, through to the Commonwealth Government, many organisations are looking at alternative approaches that provide greater control.
The increase in Native Title activity over the last five years is an indicator of Indigenous interest in Indigenous heritage management.
Land under some level of Indigenous control relating to Native Title, Land Rights and the Indigenous Land Corporation
In 1996 it was estimated that there were 1842 parcels of land held by Indigenous peoples, covering an area of 1.162 million square kilometres (Altman and Pollack 1998). This equates to 15% of the total Australian land area. The distribution of Indigenous lands is summarised in Table 36. These figures are an estimate and include all land under some level of Indigenous control. The next updated figure should be available from the 2001 Census.
('000) (1996 Census)
|Land per capita (km2)||Percentage of total area of Indigenous land in Australia|
|New South Wales and ACT||1.6||104.4||0.02|
Source: Indigenous Land Corporation Regional and Strategies; ABS 1996a Census. (Reproduced from Altman and Pollack (1998).
At January 2001 there were 551 active claimant applications and 21 determinations of Native Title (13 by consent and 8 after a trial) including one sea claim, and 42 claimant applications were before the Federal Court for judicial review. These provided for some level of Native Title over 26 687 square kilometres.
As at June 2000 the Indigenous Land Corporation had acquired 127 properties with a total area of 47 993 square kilometres(David Pollack, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, ANU, pers.comm.). Land granted through the Northern Territory's Land Rights Act is also quite significant.
As 15% of the total Australian land area was under some form of Indigenous control by 1996, this makes land under this jurisdiction much more significant in extent than land held under National Park or other natural or cultural conservation tenures (almost 8%). (This compares with 'Aboriginals' having freehold title or some tenure to over 9.6% of the land in 1983.) Taking control of land is a major step towards Indigenous control of heritage places.