Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Cultural heritage and national identity are terms that seem to have a double meaning in
One on hand we have post-colonial Australia, as part of the Commonwealth and a larger global economy, with all the growth and technological progress it provides, as well as quality of life for many Australians. On the other, we have a much older, and culturally rich Aboriginal heritage, whose lands supply wealth for the former, at the expense of the latter.
Why is one valued above the other? Is money more valuable than culture? Culture informs identity, and identity is a key part of living in accordance with our values. Without values, all the money in the world does not equate to human happiness. Let's take the example of recent events; the Rio Tinto blowing up of a 46,000-year-old sacred site of the Puunu Kunti Kurrama people, a place not only of cultural significance but also one of significant archeological significance, including the earliest use of grindstone technology in Western Australia. Going back to the question of national identity; did you know that Aboriginal people
had access to complex farming technology long before colonisation?
Bruce Pascoe in ‘Dark emu, Black seeds’ suggests the myth of the noble savage, a nomadic bush expert was invented to dehumanise aboriginal people to easier justify the crimes committed against them.
When a mining company obliterates a cultural site for profit, and we enjoy the fruits of the economic growth their activity creates, are we not the ones with our hands on the explosive trigger? By condoning such behavior we may as well encourage it and therefore perpetrate it.
Look at recent events in America with Police officer Derek Chauvin who murdered black American George Floyd, who was also acquitted of shooting unarmed Native American Leroy Martinez. Dr. Huey Percy Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party once said “In America, black people are treated very much like the Vietnamese people or any other colonized people, because we are used.”
There is national uproar and riots regarding the matter, but absolute silence from us on Rio Tinto’s activities. Are the situations not similar? Taking from the lands of custodians to build economies is colonial power in a nutshell, and for all our talk of the sorry day, there is still not an Aboriginal voice enshrined in our constitution, the basis of all laws in our country (Radical Heart, Shereen Morris).
Bruce Pascoe ‘Dark emu, black seeds’,
Sheereen Morris ‘Radical Heart’
Transformers, Paramount Pictures and