A history of Aboriginal heritage legislation in south-eastern Australia

22nd November 2013

Laurajane Smith


This paper details the role that archaeologists and archaeological knowledge played in the lobbying for, and framing of, Aboriginal heritage legislation in south-eastern Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania). The central contention of the paper is that a fortuitous set of circumstances during the 1960s and 1970s privileged archaeologists and archaeological knowledge in the creation and framing of heritage legislation, which has establish the framework under which Cultural Heritage Management (CHM), and indeed all archaeology in Australia, has since been conducted. Central to this process was the mobilisation of the discourse of the ‘New Archaeology’, which lent confidence to the perception of archaeology as a rigorous science. This self perception was reflected in the way in which the relevant bureaucracies were able to utilise the supposedly neutral and value free nature of archaeology as ‘science’. Archaeological knowledge, and archaeologists as the holders of expert knowledge, were afforded a central role in the legislation over the interpretation and disposition of material culture, which in a sense allowed them to play a role in the regulation and governance of Indigenous cultural claims (though see Smith in press(a) with reference to the erosion of that authority).

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Smith, L.
A history of Aboriginal heritage legislation in south-eastern Australia
June 2000
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