Our Home Our Country: A Case Study of Law, Land and Indigenous Cultural Heritage in the Northern Territory, Australia

01st December 2006

Daryl L. Guse

Masters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, School of Australian Indigenous Knowledge Studies, Charles Darwin University, May 2006

The Reynolds River region contributes significantly to the natural and cultural heritage of the Northern   Territory. This thesis documents the Aboriginal heritage places of the Reynolds River, using current heritage methodologies to determine the appropriateness of the current regime of legislation and practices. The suite of cultural heritage places in the Reynolds River region demonstrates the continuous and large-scale occupation by Aboriginal people of the region from the beginning of the Holocene through to the present. These sites also reflect the many changes that were occurring in the natural environment and ecology over the last 3000 years. Geomorphic changes culminated in the creation of the freshwater wetlands that are a fundamental part of the Werat traditional owner’s cultural landscape. The wetlands, and their flora and fauna, feature significantly in Werat mythology and beliefs and have always been an important economic source.

This thesis attempts to document archaeological sites and the cultural significance these places have to Werat traditional owners. Heritage places in the Reynolds River area are of national significance as they are representative of, and can contribute significantly to our understanding of, the intensification of the diverse activities undertaken by Aboriginal people in the past. Many of these cultural heritage places are under threat from natural, animal and human agents with the distinct possibility of significantly diminishing the heritage values if left unchecked. This thesis demonstrates that when applying the current suite of Territory and Commonwealth legislation to Indigenous heritage places of the Reynolds River region, blanket protection cannot be afforded to all values if they are not attached to an archaeological or sacred site. Consequently, with varying degrees of protection come varying degrees of ability for Aboriginal traditional owners to conserve and protect their heritage places.

Daryl L. Guse
Our Home Our Country: A Case Study of Law, Land and Indigenous Cultural Heritage in the Northern Territory, Australia
December 2006
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Thesis Abstracts
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