Review of ‘Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria Volume 1′ by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel

16th October 2014

Ricardi-review-cover2012. La Trobe University, Bundoora, 79 pp. ISBN 978-1-291-27025-9 (pbk).

Reviewed by Pamela Ricardi

The inaugural issue of Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria presents a range of papers, most of which were delivered at the La Trobe University Colloquium on Victorian Archaeology and Heritage Management on 3 February 2012. In the Editorial, the Editors (Berelov and Eccleston pp.7–8) state that the aim of the journal is to bring the State’s archaeological community together to share their thoughts and concerns. In keeping with this aim, papers discuss a diverse range of topics relevant to archaeological practice in Victoria, including methodological concerns working under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, exciting community engagement initiatives, and historical and maritime projects.

A recurring concern surrounds restrictive methodological demands associated with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Specifically, conclusions are shown to vary depending on the field methodologies applied, with the Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) process seen by some authors as restrictive (Anderson pp.27–34; Thomas pp.19–26). As Anderson points out, sites may not be accurately recorded by the current site registration criteria, which favour a site specific rather than a regional approach. This sentiment is echoed across a number of papers (Kiriama pp.67–74; Vines pp.35–44), a concern that remains even after legislative amendments in 2011.

The introduction of the Act has brought positive changes, particularly in the area of community engagement (e.g. the establishment of Registered Aboriginal Parties). However, as Kiriama stresses, site extent and significance assessments do not incorporate intangible cultural values (pp.67–74), and the dominance of scientific data in site registration is a matter of concern for community members. Therefore, it was excellent to find two papers in this volume discussing community engagement initiatives that recorded cultural values associated with Country and traditional ecological knowledge (Gilding et al. pp.11–18; Parmington et al. pp.57–66) Hopefully, similar initiatives will continue into the future.

There are a few research papers provided in this volume. Staniforth, for example, introduces the Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded ‘Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project’. This research will investigate the in situ preservation of wreck sites, a timely task considering the damage caused by development and climate change on maritime heritage. Smith’s paper details results from a project aimed at identifying prisoners (including Ned Kelly) executed in Melbourne between 1880 and 1967. This multidisciplinary project involved archaeologists, historians and forensic anthropologists from public, private and academic spheres in Australia and Argentina. The project concluded with the successful discovery of all executed prisoners, as well as the identification of a few prisoners’ remains, Ned Kelly included, who were buried in mass graves. This paper provides an excellent example of multidisciplinary research and offers a significant contribution to Australian archaeology, history and even Ned Kelly folklore.

The last two papers deal with the past and the future of Victorian archaeology. From a Marxist perspective, Zorzin considers the transition from State supported archaeology under the Victorian Archaeological Survey (VAS) to the dominance of private consultancy companies established during the early 1980s. Lawrence et al. consider the responsibility of universities in generating graduate students with interests in local archaeology and skills required in consulting firms–the main employers of archaeology graduates.

Overall, this volume abides by its central aim, providing a forum for reporting interests and concerns for Victorian archaeologists. It is a timely contribution for heritage practitioners in the state and, for this, the producers and Editors should be commended. The journal is particularly relevant to archaeologists working in Victoria, although a few papers (particularly those outside the local consulting sphere) will be of interest to a nation-wide audience. A frustrating aspect of this volume, however, was the large quantity of typos, grammatical errors, missing references and style inconsistencies. Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria has a long way to go to reach the standards set by other university produced journals, such as The University of Queensland’s Queensland Archaeological Research. Considering this is the first issue I feel sure that this will soon change and provide a useful resource for Victorian archaeology.

Ricardi, P.
Review of ‘Excavations, Surveys and Heritage Management in Victoria Volume 1′ by Ilya Berelov, Mark Eccleston and David Frankel
December 2014
Book Reviews
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