Obligations to Objects

Tangled Histories and Changing Contexts of the Burnett River Rock Engravings

in Museum Worlds
View More View Less
  • 1 Queensland Museum brit.asmussen@qm.qld.gov.au
  • 2 Independent researcher lestermhill@hotmail.com
  • 3 James Cook University sean.ulm@jcu.edu.au
  • 4 Queensland Museum chantal.knowles@qm.qld.gov.au
Restricted access

ABSTRACT

This article discusses changing obligations toward objects from an archaeological site held by the Queensland Museum, through a long-term, 40-year case study. Between 1971 and 1972 a selection of 92 stone blocks weighing up to 5 tons containing Aboriginal engravings were cut out of the site and distributed to multiple locations across Queensland by the State Government under the provisions of the then Aboriginal Relics Preservation Act 1967. The site was subsequently flooded following dam construction and the removed blocks became part of the Queensland Museum’s collection. This article chronicles the history of the site and its “salvage,” the consequences of fragmentation of the site for community and institutions, the creation of 92 museum objects, the transformation from immobile to mobile cultural heritage, and community-led requests for their repatriation back to country.

Contributor Notes

DR. BRIT ASMUSSEN is Senior Curator of Archaeology, Indigenous cultures, at Queensland Museum. Brit’s current archaeological research examines long-term Australian human-environmental relationships and socioeconomic and cultural systems via the detailed analysis of multiple archaeological records. She has curated several exhibitions.

LESTER MICHAEL HILL is a Gooreng Gooreng man from Bundaberg. He grew up in the bush, raised in culture, taught by elders. He has a desire to teach younger generations about their cultural heritage and the wider community about Aboriginal culture. Mr. Hill is leading community efforts for the repatriation of the Burnett River Rock Engravings back to their traditional country, where they can rest in a secure place, with hopes for the development of a cultural heritage center teaching culture and the interconnectedness between culture, heritage, and well-being.

PROFESSOR SEAN ULM is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the College of Arts, Society and Education at James Cook University. His publications include more than 80 articles on the archaeology of Australia and five books. Sean has conducted research in Australia, Honduras, Chile, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific.

CHANTAL KNOWLES is the head of the Cultural Environments Program at the Queensland Museum Network. As a museum professional and anthropologist with 17 years of experience working in the museum sector, her research has focused on Oceania, in particular Papua New Guinea. Her wider interests include museum practice and material culture, and developing collaborative partnerships with communities, curators, authors, and scholars.

Museum Worlds

Advances in Research

  • Allam, Lorena. 2010. “Salvage and Loss: The Aswan High Dam and the Fate of Nubia.” Australian Broad-casting Commission, 28 March. www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/salvage-and-loss-the-aswan-high-dam-and-the-fate/3021210 (accessed 20 December 2015).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Andrews, Thomas D. 2014. “Recasting Authenticity in Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes.” Pp. 96104 in Proceedings of Exploring the Cultural Value of Nature: A World Heritage Context, ed. Christina Cameron and Judith Herrman, www.patrimoinebati.umontreal.ca/documents/Proceedings_2014_FINAL.pdf (accessed 5 May 2016).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Andrews, Thomas D., and Susan Buggey. 2008. “Authenticity in Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes.” APT Bulletin: Journal of Preservation Technology 39: 23.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anon. 1969a. “Natives Art in Path of District Progress.” News Mail, 20 June.

  • Anon. 1969b. Report for the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. 1 December. Brisbane.

  • Anon. 1970. Minutes of the Meeting of the Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee 2 July. Brisbane: Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee.

  • Anon. 1971a. “Rock Carving ‘Rescue’ Plan.” News Mail, 6 July.

  • Anon. 1971b. “Move to Preserve Rock Carvings.” News Mail, 16 July.

  • Anon. 1971c. “Rock Carvings to Be Lifted.” News Mail, 6 August.

  • Anon. 1971d. “New Carvings Under Sand?News Mail, 11 August.

  • Anon. 1972a. Minutes of the Meeting of the Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee 19 April. Brisbane: Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anon. 1972b. “Aboriginal Carvings for Park.” News Mail, 21 August.

  • Anon. 1972c. Minutes of the Meeting of the Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee 31 August. Brisbane: Aboriginal Relics Advisory Committee.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anon. 1972d. University of Queensland Senate, Minutes of the University of Queensland Senate Committee 5 December. St Lucia: University of Queensland.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anon. 1972e. University of Queensland Senate, Minutes of the University of Queensland Senate Committee 7 December. St Lucia: University of Queensland.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bartholami, Alan. 1972. Memorandum to Kate Sutcliffe. DATSIP Archives.

  • Batty, Philip, 2005. “White Redemption Rituals: Repatriating Aboriginal Secret-Sacred Objects.” Arena Journal 23: 2936.

  • Central Land Council. 2015. “Sacred Sites in the Northern Territory.” www.clc.org.au/articles/info/sacred-sites-in-the-northern-territory (accessed 22 December 2015).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Curtis, Neil. 2006Universal Museums, Museum Objects and Repatriation: The Tangled Stories of Things.” Museum Management and Curatorship 21(2): 117127.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Eades, Diana. 1982. “‘You Gotta Know How to Talk …’: Information Seeking in Southeast Queensland Aboriginal Society.” Australian Journal of Linguistics 2(1): 6182.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Edmonds, Vanessa. 1984. Draft manuscript on the Burnett River Rock Engravings. Unpublished.

  • Elkin, Adolphus. 1949. “The Origins and Interpretations of Petroglyphs in South-Eastern Australia.” Oceania 20: 119157.

  • Elkin, Adolphus. 1975. “R.H. Matthews: His Contribution to Aboriginal Studies Part 2.” Oceania 66: 126152.

  • Fracua, Harry. 1969. “Natives Art in Path of District Progress.” Bundaberg News Mail, 20 June, 3.

  • Hill, Lester Michael. 2015. Interview with Brit Asmussen. Personal interview. Queensland Museum, November.

  • Howie-Willis, Ian. 1999. “The Sally White/Diane Barwick Award.” Aboriginal History 23: 110111.

  • Ianna, Christine. 2001. “Preventative Conservation Report: The Burnett River Engravings, The University of Queensland.” Unpublished report, Queensland Museum Department of Conservation.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lilley, Ian, and Sean Ulm. 1999. “The Gooreng-Gooreng Cultural Heritage Project: Preliminary Results of Archaeological Research 1993–1997.” Queensland Archaeological Research 11: 114.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Matthews, Robert. 1897. “Rock Carvings and Paintings of the Australian Aborigines.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 36: 466487.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Matthews, Robert. 1910. “Some Rock Pictures and Ceremonial Stones of the Australian Aborigines.” Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science 12: 493498.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Maynard, Lesley. 1976. “An Archaeological Approach to the Study of Australian Rock Art.” Unpublished MA thesis, University of New England.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McNiven, Ian J. 1994. “Relics of a By-Gone Race”? Managing Aboriginal Sites in the Great Sandy Region. Ngulaig Monograph Series 12. Brisbane: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, University of Queensland.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McNiven, Ian, and Lynette Russell. 2005. Appropriated Pasts: Indigenous Peoples and the Colonial Culture of Archaeology. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Museums Australia Inc. 1996. “Previous Possessions, New Obligations: A Plain English Summary for Museums in Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.” Museums Australia 2005.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Nolan, Margurite, Yasmin Evans, and Nereda White. 2003. “Weemala: The Spirit Within.” ACU National: 152.

  • Pickering, Michael. 2015. “The Big Picture: The Repatriation of Australian Sacred ObjectsMuseum Management and Curatorship 30(5): 427443.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Quinnell, Michael. 1976. “Aboriginal Rock Art in Carnarvon Gorge, South Central Queensland.” Unpublished MA thesis, University of New England, Armidale.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Robins, Richard. 2001. “Memorandum: Bundaberg Rock Engravings.” QM File.

  • Rola-Wojciechowski, Caroline. 1983. “A Bit of Bundy: The Bundaberg Engraving Site.” Unpublished honors thesis, Department of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of New England.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, Laurajane, 2001. “Archaeology and the Governance of Material Culture: A Case Study from South-Eastern Australia.” Norweigan Archaeological Review 34(2): 97105.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sutcliffe, Kate. n.d. Proposed article for Environment Control Newsletter: “Aboriginal Rock Engravings from Burnett River.” Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Archive.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sutcliffe, Kate. 1972a. Honorary Wardens Newsletter Number 1. September.

  • Sutcliffe, Kate. 1972b. Honorary Wardens Newsletter Number 2. December.

  • Sutcliffe, Kate. 1972c. “Removal of Rock Engravings from the Burnett River, Queensland.” Unpublished MA thesis (draft).

  • Sutcliffe, Kate. 1974. “Removal of the Aboriginal Rock Engravings, Burnett River.” Anthropological Society of Queensland Newsletter 65.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Truscott, Marilyn. 2006. “Repatriation of Indigenous Cultural Property.” Paper prepared for the 2006 Australian State of the Environment Committee, Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. www.environment.gov.au/node/22561.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Tyron, Henry. 1884. “Undescribed Class of Rock Drawings of Aborigines in Queensland.” Royal Society of Queensland 1: 4552.

  • Ulm, Sean. 1994. “Burnett River Aboriginal Rock Engravings Repatriation Project: Interim Report—May 1994.” Unpublished report to Gurang Land Council and the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ulm, Sean, and Ian Lilley. 1995. “The Gooreng Gooreng Cultural Heritage Project and Repatriation of the Burnett River Engravings.” World Archaeological Congress News 4(1): iiiiv.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ulm, Sean, Ian Lilley, and Michael Williams. 1997. “Bringing Them Back Home: Repatriating the Burnett River Engravings.” Unpublished paper presented to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit UQ, 10 October.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Walker, J.Y. 1890. The History of Bundaberg. London: Gorden and Gotch.

  • Waterson, Emma, and Laurajane Smith. 2010. “The Recognition and Misrecognition of Community Heritage.” International Journal of Heritage Studies 16(1–2): 445.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Welch, John, and T.J. Ferguson. 2007. “Putting Patria Back into Repatriation: Cultural Affiliation Assessment of White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands.” Journal of Social Archaeology 7(2): 171198.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Williams, Michael, Sean Ulm, Ian Lilley, and Richard Robins. n.d. “Draft Plan for the Repatriation of the Burnett River Rock Engravings.” Unpublished Report.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Woolford, Nathan. 2003. “The Ethics of Ownership: Indigenous Cultural Property Rights and the Practice of Archaeology.” Unpublished honors thesis, School of Social Sciences, University of Queensland.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 91 85 5
Full Text Views 16 9 0
PDF Downloads 10 6 0