People and their past : is 'community archaeology’ the future?

  • Marilyn Claire Truscott

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis looks at how ‘community archaeology’ ideals may influence an inclusive approach to Indigenous heritage management,ensuring Indigenous community power over processes to identify both past and present values of Country. Community archaeology was acclaimed by research archaeologists over a decade ago as a distinctive approach with its own set of practices to incorporate the local community’s perspectives of its past and current associations with place. A core feature of this approach in Australia is the major role the Indigenous community has in decisions about its heritage. Concurrently,considerable concern was being expressed that Indigenous heritage was not sufficiently addressed in environmental impact assessment processes ahead of development. Seen as absent from the process was the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge about both the pre- and post-contact story as well as any scientific advance in understanding an area’s Indigenous history. This research examines these contrasting perspectives seeking to understand the ideals of community archaeology and its potential to value all aspects of Indigenous heritage and so benefit the relevant community. The ideals of community archaeology build on past community collaborations in Australia and also respond to more recent societal recognition of Indigenous rights,reflected in more ethically inclusive planning and heritage statutes. Indigenous communities expressed the view that current systems are still not meeting these policy commitments to give them control over their heritage. This research has examined the on-the-ground reality of heritage work on the outskirts of Canberra and Melbourne. The case studies compare Victorian and ACT heritage management processes across community partnerships with public land managers,and examine how pre-development surveys operate. I conclude that considerable potential for achieving community archaeology ideals exists,and that they are occasionally partially realised,however barriers continue. In essence,the archaeological model persists despite a community archaeology approach requiring a wider set of skills to ensure a comprehensive engagement with an Indigenous community. Other obstacles in the current Indigenous heritage management system include a lack of knowledge and communication about national standards for heritage processes in government agencies and heritage consultants; the administrative framework that can result in inertia or silos between relevant agencies; and funding timeframes that limit possibilities for long-term strategic programs for early identification and management planning for Indigenous heritage. Also,Indigenous communities have varying levels of authority to speak for how their heritage should be managed,yet may not have the resources to do so. This thesis suggests ways to breach these barriers to achieve more inclusive Indigenous heritage management based on community archaeology principles. Policies for a greater acknowledgement of the Indigenous community’s authority to speak for Country; processes that enable and early and comprehensive ‘mapping’ of Country,and long-term resourcing of communities,may have been promised before. In this research I suggest ways to realise such goals.
Date of Award1 Jan 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Canberra

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