Aboriginal heritage is under increasing threat from urban encroachment, demands for resources, and incompatible land use activities. The protection and conservation of Aboriginal heritage is a complex and political process tied up in issues of cultural identity and competing sets of values.
Aboriginal heritage is both scarce and finite, and therefore cannot regenerate like other components of the natural environment. Responsibility for the management of sites rests with governments which must provide protection through legislation and administration, while balancing the needs of various interest groups. In this respect understanding those values is important for managers because it is they who will determine the range of management options necessary to manage sites.
One of the issues facing Aboriginal heritage is that different organisations have different roles to fulfil as part of their overall responsibilities. Responding to pressures to be more proactive, agencies have developed a range of policies and guidelines requiring Aboriginal heritage to be considered part of the organisations core responsibilities. However many of these documents fall well short of optimum standards, and lack clarity in both their extent and intent.
This dissertation aims to examine the current practice of Aboriginal heritage management, particularly rock art. Although heritage forms a continuum across all landscapes, the research presented here has focused primarily upon public land, and its respective land managers. Agencies within Victoria include Aboriginal Affairs Victoria; Parks Victoria, and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment. For New South Wales, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and State Forests. Finally for the ACT, ACT Parks and Conservation.
The research presented involves two levels of investigation. Background information was sought to identify the extent to which public land management agencies commit themselves to Aboriginal heritage. The process undertaken, from policy development to on-ground implementation of actions was examined.. The second stage involved the interviewing of key personnel to gather essential information concerning how each agency manages Aboriginal heritage. The limitations and restrictions were then identified. The results have confirmed that many of the issues extend beyond legislation and policy constraints, and have much to do with resource restriction, and organisational instability.