Annual Report 2010-2011

Published: December, 2011

Output 4.3 Cultural and Heritage Support

Aboriginal people in Central Australia consistently proclaim their desire to keep Aboriginal law and culture strong.
Today, for most Aboriginal people in the CLC’s region, land and culture remain inextricably bound and the protection of sacred sites and objects is still a critical issue A significant role of the CLC is to help Aboriginal people to do this. 
Every year the CLC receives numerous requests by government agencies, mining and other commercial interests seeking to carry out activities on Aboriginal land.
The CLC carries out work area clearances to ensure that sacred sites are not damaged duringthis work.
The correct identification of traditional owners is fundamental to ensuring the smooth operation of the Land Rights Act and the CLC frequently does anthropological research to determine traditional ownership of land. While it can be a major exercise, this procedure enables development to proceed with certainty.
The combination of poverty and the high mortality rate of Central Australian Aboriginal people means that assistance often has to be given for funerals to enable people to be buried on their country with the appropriate ceremonies. The CLC is responsible for administering ABA funds to assist its constituents to do this.
In addition, there is also funding available to assist Aboriginal people in its region to maintain their cultural affiliations by carrying out ceremonial activities.
Traditional land management practices and Indigenous ecological knowledge occupy an increasingly important place in the preservation of Aboriginal culture and heritage.

Comment on Performance

Sacred Site Protection and Work Area Clearances 

Sacred sites are places of deep spiritual significance and are an integral part of Aboriginal culture.
Their protection is vital for the continuation of religious and cultural traditions and as a source of identity for Aboriginal people.
The CLC assists Aboriginal people to protect their sacred sites by ensuring that every development proposal (including exploration and mining activity and road works) goes through a site clearance (work area clearance process).
Where sites are damaged, either because site clearances were not obtained, or because conditions imposed by traditional owners were not adhered to, the CLC assists traditional owners either to negotiate compensation or to prosecute the offender.
Through the clearance process, traditional owners gain a sound understanding of the request, and hence the ability to make informed decisions about it.
They may advise the CLC that some areas are not available for the proposed work because of sacred sites in the area or instruct the CLC on protection measures and conditions to be imposed on the proponent so that work can proceed in a way that does not damage the sites or in any way affect their integrity.
The Anthropology Section conducted research towards or issued advice regarding 164 instances for the maintenance of Aboriginal culture and heritage, including the issue of 113 sacred site clearance certificates. 

Other Cultural Heritage Protection

The CLC continued to dedicate time and resources to the repatriation of sacred objects, from its own collection and from museums around the country. Some objects from the Strehlow collection were repatriated.
In 2010-2011 the  CLC also took steps towards increasing its role in the physical protection and management of sites of cultural and historical significance to Aboriginal people in the region against a range of environmental threats and other forces of deterioration. Projects of this nature were undertaken at Henbury, Jay Creek, Haasts Bluff, the Petermann Aboriginal Land Trust and the Spotted TigerMica Mine. 

Aboriginal Ceremonial Activities and Funerals

The CLC continues to administer an ABA grant to provide targeted support for funerals and ceremonial activity in our region. The CLC has a clear process for the allocation of ceremony and funeral support program funds to each of the CLC’s nine regions. 

The majority of the CLC’s expenditure on ceremonial activity takes place during the summer months, primarily November through to March, supporting families with young men involved in initiation ceremonies. During the 2010-2011 summer, 22 communities and homelands were assisted to participate in ceremonial activity:

  • Region 1 – Ntaria, Titjikala, Santa Teresa, Alice Springs
  • Region 2 – Docker River, Finke
  • Region 4 – Willowra, Nyirripi, Yuendumu
  • Region 5 – Kintore, Papunya, Mt Liebig, Haasts Bluff
  • Region 6 – Tennant Creek, Wauchope
  • Region 8 – Alcoota, Mulga Bore
  • Region 9 – Ti Tree, 6 Mile, Stirling, Mt Allen, Laramba.

In the reporting period 165 families were provided with assistance towards funeral costs, consistent with the CLC guidelines. 

Women’s Law and Culture Meeting

The Women’s Law and Culture meeting is an important annual event which this year was funded by grants from both the Alice Springs and Central Remote Indigenous Coordination Centres (ICC). The CLC provided essential assistance to enable the success of the 2010 Women’s Law and Culture Meeting. This year the meeting was hosted by the women from Mt Liebig community and surrounding areas. Approximately 250 women from across Central Australia participated in the event which occurred for five days and was attended and supported by the  CLC’s female staff members. 

Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK)

The CLC continued to host a significant $1 million program funded by the Australian Government through the NT Natural Resource Management (NRM) Board to support intergenerational transfer of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) across the southern NT. 
The Handing Down Knowledge program formed a significant component of a $2.7 million Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) allocation to support the recording, recovery, maintenance and application of IEK in the Northern Territory.
The three-year life of the program finished on  31 December 2010.
The IEK program supported frequently articulated aspirations of traditional owners to transfer cultural knowledge and practices from older to younger people and create opportunities for young people to learn from older people about how to ‘look after country’.
The projects were diverse and ranged from small family groups to sub regional projects and were often very successfully  partnered by a range of other agencies and organisations.
During the final six months of 2010, 17 individual IEK projects were completed across 10 language groups bringing the total number of projects supported over its three-year life to 49.
The  high profile of the CLC’s  IEK projects  contributed significantly to its capacity to leverage significant co-investment in IEK from other agencies and organisations.
The CLC also supported the  launch of the Central Anmatyerre Dictionary  funded through the CLC IEK program.
A final report was submitted to the NT NRM Board in early February 2011. 
Of the 49 projects supported by the program at the end of its three-year term, 46 projects involved intergenerational on-country activity involving a total of approximately 1650 participants.
The CLC also brought in 60 IEK participants to the NRM Board IEK forum in Alice Springs in October, 2010.
It collaborated with the Parks and Wildlife Service in  two projects   focused on incorporating traditional knowledge in the management of Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park and adjoining areas of the Petermann ALT.
The NT NRM Board also made an extra $25,000 available to implement the Tanami Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) Repatriation and Archiving Project, a pilot case study in IEK repatriation and archiving which is in the initial stages of operation.

Traditional Land Management Support

Numerous country visits ranging in duration from day trips to a week or more were undertaken during 2010-2011 in which one or more of the following traditional land management activities were conducted:

  • Cleaning out of culturally significant waterholes
  • Maintenance of other significant sites through actions to address environmental threats such as fire, weed infestations, stock and feral animal impacts
  • Undertaking of associated ceremonies and other cultural obligations
  • Traditional burning of country
  • Intergenerational transfer of traditional knowledge
  • Hunting and collection of bush foods, medicinal plants and artefact materials.

Many of these continued to occur in conjunction with IPA management and feasibility assessment activities in the northern Tanami, southern Tanami and Katiti-Petermann regions. Others arose from opportunistic value-adding to core-funded land management functions and other targeted activities, such as targeted fire management activities, externally-funded by Territory NRM, SEWPAC, ABA and ILC. The network of CLC Indigenous ranger groups continued to be a valuable framework for supporting traditional owners to meet their own cultural aspirations for the management of their land.