As student of cultural Heritage Practicum, I am going to share with you part of my experiences with the Aboriginal Heritage Branch of the Aboriginal Affairs Reconciliation Division (AARD) of South Australia. It has been interesting since I am in contact with the real world involving management of cultural heritage sites and traditional owners living in the country, South Australia. The main function of the Branch is to improve the administration of the Aboriginal Heritage Act as well as to ensure understanding of and compliance with the Act.
Day 1: 27/04/09
Field trip to Northern Yake, Port Augusta and Leigh Creek
A field trip to Northern Yake, Port Augusta and Leigh Creek involving Peter Birt, heritage officer, and me was organised. The purpose to Northern Yake was to display information on the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 for Natural Resource Managers. During the meeting oriented by Peter Birt questions such as how to determine the importance of a site, how to get information from the central archive and the timeframe to get it, how to protect a site from damage as well as to determine responsibilities in case of rehabilitation of a site. Site damage and how to protect them in accordance with the Act was another issue presented by the managers as part of their attributions and concerns. Reluctance of Aboriginal people to cooperate with managers in identifying sites is another problem faced by the managers because traditional owners mistrust the Act. Further, Indigenous people do not identify sites because they think that they are not contextualized with archaeology. Tensions in the communities are another part of the problem as it does not allow them to perform any management action without their permission. However, the heritage officer explained that any action to be taken in a site must be done after consultation with AARD and in accordance with the Act besides acceptance of traditional owners. In summary, the meeting was useful as they could ask questions and get some explanations about the Act even though it is going through a revision process.
Day 2: 28/04/09
The second phase of our trip was a preliminary meeting with Andamooka people in Port Augusta to identify and register sites of importance for them. Wilfred Stragways traditional owner member of the local council had site of cultural importance which consisted in black oaks used to make boomerangs and water hole (contact site). The site is located in Angorichina. Site cards (A e B) to register and identify the sites were delivered to him and an explanation about how to use it was given by the heritage officer, and was stressed that contextualization of the sites were important to assess significance. For Wilfred Stragways, the site was of importance because his mother was born there and it was under threat of damage. Disclosure of information related with registered sites of Aboriginal people is done after consultation with people responsible for the area which is stipulated on the Act. The inclusion of these proceedings in the Act was to protect Aboriginal sites as the heritage officer explained.