Stay at home archaeologist. Also, the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

By April Webb.

When I mention to people that I’m studying archaeology, I get the standard question: “Oh, so you’re like Indiana Jo-”


Honestly, I’ve never even seen it. But, I can understand why people would make the comparison. (Well, probably. Like I said, I’ve never seen it.) Scrolling through the posts tagged “Directed study,” it seems like the adventuring starts while you’re still at uni – everyone’s out and about talking to people, recording sites, hey, probably even using a trowel. Not me though. It’s been a while since I left the house.


My colleagues don’t talk much

Welcome to the exciting world of a distance student doing a desktop-based directed study.

Most people, I assume, at least go into an office to do their desk work. But the fact is, this directed study has taught me something significant: I like desktop work. Which is good to know, because, assuming I am lucky enough to be an employed person one day, there will be a lot of this. Desktop studies are a fairly integral part of the early stages of most archaeological projects. Two of my other classes this semester, on Heritage Management Planning and Research Grants, have reinforced the message. Archaeology isn’t just romance. It isn’t even just trashiness like you see on those garbage treasure hunter shows. It’s also a lot of sitting in front of a computer, conducting background research. Writing grant proposals and management plans. Learning the ins and outs of legislation. Developing back problems from your terrible sitting posture.

But, no one came here to hear about my sedentary lifestyle. (Or, maybe you did, in which case you should probably reassess your whole value system.) So here are some things I know now that I didn’t know before that relate to my Directed Study on Aboriginal Regional Authorities in South Australia.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority.

As I’ve mentioned before, my Directed Study project centres on the establishment of Aboriginal Regional Authorities in South Australia. While regional governance is quite widely accepted as a suitable model for Aboriginal communities (Sullivan 2010), historically there have been historically few regional bodies with legislative authority. One of these has been the Torres Strait Regional Authority. Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), a system of Regional Councils existed across Australia, one of which was the Torres Shire Regional Council. The TSRC was established under a separate section of the ATSIC Act (1989), and was the only one to be retained (it was transformed into the TSRA in 1994 in an amendment to the ATSIC Act) after the abolition of ATSIC in 2004. The government’s stated reason for retaining it under the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) Act (2004) was that, unlike ATSIC, the TSRA was functioning well (MacDonald 2007:49).

Indeed, the TSRA has been cited as a possible model for other regionally-based bodies (Muurdi Paaki Regional Council 2004). With that in mind, there are aspects of the TSRA model that should be considered when thinking about the implementation of Regional Authorities in South Australia. Firstly, the TSRA functioned well, according to Mr Ron Day, member of the TSRA board, because the Torres Strait is a small island group where everybody is more related, and everybody understands where the others are going (MacDonald 2007:50). The plan so far for Regional Authorities in SA is that they will establish their own boundaries and membership. In light of the Torres Strait experience, this certainly seems like the best idea. But one distinctive feature of the Torres Strait is its (relative) homogeneity. Torres Strait Islanders make up the majority of the population. Their exact system may not work as well in other regions. Certainly, the Ngarrindjeri are a good case study for effective regional governance in South Australia. Maybe I’ll write about them next time. Right now, I have to stand up before my coccyx disintegrates underneath me.


MacDonald, E. 2007 The Torres Strait Regional Authority: Is it the answer to regional governance for Indigenous Peoples? Australian Indigenous Law Review 11(3):43-54.

Muurdi Paaki Regional Council 2004 Submission to the Select Committee on the Administration of Indigenous Affairs. Retrieved 10May 2014 from

Sullivan, P. 2010 Government processes and the effective delivery of services: The Ngaanyatjarra Council and its Regional Partnership Agreement. Desert Knowledge CRC Working Paper 71. DKCRC, Alice Springs.

3 responses to “Stay at home archaeologist. Also, the Torres Strait Regional Authority.

  1. Hi April

    I really enjoyed reading your post and I totally relate to your situation. I too am a distance ed student who has never seen Indiana Jones (cue collective gasp!). I spend most of my day alone researching and writing for a couple of heritage studies I’m working on. I have a similar furry colleague, who if I could understand ‘doglish’, could provide some quite useful feedback, as she’s heard me talk about my work out aloud for the past two years! But alas, she’s asleep on my lap as I type one fingered on my iPad in a twisted position that will no doubt require a massage by the end of the week!

    Enjoy your day knowing that you are not “alone”!


  2. aprilkirstywebb

    Hi Abby,
    Thank you! It is definitely good to hear that I’m not alone in this. And my cats love to do the “sit in a weird spot while you’re trying to type” thing too. I wish there was a way to bill them for the physio visits…
    Enjoy your day too!

  3. Great post April, very amusing! Same here re the distance education bit- pretty isolating and tough to talk archaeology to yourself all day isn’t it!