The Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists Inc. - WA Chapter (AACAI WA) DPLH presentations, 25th July in Fremantle.
Representatives from the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH) presented to members and guests of the AACAI WA recently, regarding the current non-statutory application of Aboriginal heritage management within the Department.
Cesar Rodriguez, Manager of Heritage Projects, and Robert Reynolds, Team Leader for regions, gave an overview of their work and projects throughout the state. Cesar outlined the functions of the Department’s Aboriginal Heritage section, their structure and key activities that include:
- assisting and supporting the Aboriginal community with the management of Aboriginal sites;
- administering the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972;
- providing advice on Aboriginal heritage management and compliance; and
- leading a review of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972
The evening’s discussions focused particularly on the speakers’ involvement with repatriation programs. Their important and interesting work comprises returning Aboriginal ancestors remains to country, their reburial and management of the sites. Ancestral remains over many years either through natural processes or development, are being located and sent to Perth for analysis and then stored in a variety of State facilities that include the Police Department, the Coroner’s Office or the WA Museum. The work involves the:
- management of newly located or exposed remains;
- return of remains from overseas (mainly managed by WA Museum and Federal Government);
- ongoing management of previously recorded burial sites;
- returning Aboriginal people’s ancestors to their country; and
- preserving graves.
DPLH have regional heritage officers based in Broome, Port Hedland, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Albany. The projects are conducted in conjunction with the traditional owners, on country, throughout the state.
Some examples of repatriation projects completed by DPLH in recent years are summarized below.
In the southwest reburials and stabilization of in situ sites have been underway at Belvidere Beach north of Australind, at Back Beach in Bunbury, and at Bremer Bay near Albany.
The repatriation and reburial programs of remains are practical ways of correcting past wrongs. It allows Aboriginal peoples to fulfil their obligations but most importantly it allows them to bring their ancestors home, so they can once again continue their journey to their spiritual resting place.