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Tag Archives: Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division
Well, I think it is time to lay down my last thoughts on my practicum. It was a great experience work with AARD heritage officers who did everything to provide me with all materials and information related to Indigenous heritage in South Australia. Peter Birt and Heidi Crow you were fantastic. But lets get back to the track. My experience with this agency included field trips to Flinders Rangers, Port Augusta and a couple of workshops as mentioned on my previous posts.
I would like to say that management of Indigenous Cultural Heritage is a process with imperfecttions tipical of such sensitive issue. One of the main problems seems to be the ineffectiveness of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988. This Act was supposed to protect Indigenous culture but in practical terms it does not happen judging by the numbers of Ministerial decisions taken against indigenous interests. Economic interests had always prevailed against Indigenous interests and this situation led some Elders to ask why reviewing the Act if on the end of the day nothing will change? This question reflects the ordeal of Indigenous communities. Furhter, the way Traditional Owners are treated in a paternalistic way does not help build relationships based in mutual respect and this leads to miscomunication and absence of communication at all in some cases.
However, the situation outside there is not that bad because the new Act apparently will include some aspects considered important by Indigenous communities as expressed on Scoping Paper issued by the Government of South Australia and suggestions received, as part of the reviewing process, from the Joint Aboriginal Heritage Committee Disscussion Paper. This paper is considered the most contemporary document in Australia about a Heritage Act. It is considered as such because it addresses Indigenous problems in an Aboriginal perspective which hapens for the first time in Australia’s history according to David Baker the man on charge of the reviewing process.All in all, this is a long process which request involvement of all parties in an unprecedent level and constant dialogue to overcome future problems and misunderstandings.Nevertheless, change of attitudes is a must otherwise any effort to improve conditions will be jeopardize. It includes a new educational approach where Indigenous heritage is thought in schools to start to familiarize people with this culture and history.
This review was taken at the Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Division Department of the Premier and Cabinet (AARD) and was conducted by representatives of the State Government. The state government released its Scoping Paper for the review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 in December 2008. Reviewing the Act is considered the most consultative process realized in SA. The Scoping Paper was designed to describe the context of and reasons for reviewing the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988. Thus, the enactment of Native Title Act 1993(Commonwealth), new Aboriginal heritage legislation interstate, the Government’s Native Title Claims Resolution Process, development and implementation of legislation that takes an integrated approach to land management and use, the widespread use of agreements negotiated directly between Aboriginal people and land developers about heritage and related matters, implementation of the South Australian Strategic Plan are part of the context and reasons behind the review initiated by the State Government.
The purpose of this process is to see included in the new act principles such as recognition of Aboriginal custodians of cultural heritage, a much stronger framework for long-term protection and management of Aboriginal heritage, enabling Aboriginal negotiation of agreements about heritage, embedding Aboriginal heritage considerations into the development and land management process, more efficient process, certainty to all parties and complementing the Native Title Act 1993(Cth). On the other hand, the Joint Heritage Committees, which consist of the Aboriginal Congress of SA Inc.Heritage Sub-Committee and the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee (SAHC), would like to see in the new Act four key changes: establishment of an Independent Aboriginal Authority, Make developers produce and negotiate and Aboriginal Heritage Management Plan, Use of local Organisations to contact the right people for heritage and to wider the meaning of Heritage(Knowledge, all waters and land, Plants, Animals and natural resources and repatriation). The final stage will consist on the adoption of new legislation after approval by parliament in 2010, but further consultation is needed.
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.