By Bek Shephard, Senior Land Services Officer – Aboriginal Communities
The Natural Resource Management (NRM) team and I have recently been working with landholders and local Aboriginal community members to conduct Aboriginal Cultural Values Impact Assessments as part of the Biodiversity on Farm project. The assessments are to ensure the installation of on-ground works don’t disturb or destroy cultural sites.
A number of sites of significant cultural heritage were identified. One site included a campsite with a large area of stone artefacts that contained flakes for cutting and grinding stones, and a remnant hearth near a dry, sandy creek line.
There were no signs of rock or stone in the vicinity, and certainly nothing like those found in the scatter site, it was apparent that they had been brought into the area from another location.
The landholder joined in the assessment and helped piece together the story of the site. They showed us a natural spring nearby that had always been a reliable source of water, apart from recent drought events. This may explain why the campsite existed in this location.
A minor variation to the original design of the new fence being installed to control grazing, and enhance a Threatened Ecological Community, will now also protect an Aboriginal cultural site in our region.
The assessments provide a great opportunity to share knowledge and dispel some myths regarding Aboriginal cultural values on private land. We are encouraged to see landholders so enthusiastic and willing to take an active role in protecting and managing significant areas on their properties.
Many landholders have concerns that the presence of Aboriginal cultural heritage on their properties puts them at risk of ‘land claims’ which is not the case. There is no legislation in Australia that allows Aboriginal people to make any claims to freehold land or give permission for automatic access to sites without landholder consent.