Rosemary Hollow
Managing heritage sites of human atrocity: ethics and politics

Supervisor: Dr. Dirk H.R. Spennemann


One hundred and sixty years after the event a memorial to the Aboriginal people killed in the Myall Creek massacre was established. In contrast, a memorial garden to commemorate those killed in the massacre at Port Arthur Historic Site was opened just four years after the event. Why are there so many variables in how heritage sites of human atrocity are managed? Who has the responsibility or the right, to make decisions about the site? What issues impact on the management of the sites of massacres of Aboriginal people in Australia?

This thesis will consider these issues in the context of how atrocity sites are managed both in Australia and overseas. Atrocity is defined as deliberately inflicted extreme human suffering. No detailed research papers have previously been published in Australia on this topic - either in the form of case studies, or conceptual overviews. The research undertaken for this thesis involved an in-depth review of relevant literature from Australia and overseas. This literature includes unpublished reports from the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, and the author's personal observations based on two years working at Port Arthur Historic Site as Interpretation Project Officer from September 1997 to September 1999. Site visits were made to Myall Creek, to the National Museum of Australia and to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

In the global context, the management of the sites of the Great War in Europe and World War II in Europe and Asia are reviewed, including the development of memorials to these conflicts, both on and off-site. The management of Indigenous massacres sites in Australia and the US is compared. Issues impacting on the management of three massacre sites of the late 1990s, Oklahoma City in the United States, Dunblane in Scotland and Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania are considered. Brief reference is made to the atrocity of 11 September 2001 when over 3 000 people died in the World Trade Centre Towers in New York. This thesis discusses the management of atrocity sites in the context of history and memory, as how these sites are managed will impact on both the public and private memory of the atrocity now and in the future.

A number of conclusions were reached from the research undertaken. The debate about Aboriginal massacre sites has shown if that information about a massacre is not readily available, there may be debate and uncertainty in the future about what actually occurred.

The management of all the sites discussed in this thesis illustrates the importance of consultation with the surviving victims, the families and friends, the local community, and as many stakeholders as possible. This consultation is important no matter when the atrocity occurred. The information available on the management of past and present atrocity sites indicates that there are still are questions to be answered and further research to be undertaken on this topic. With regard to Aboriginal massacre sites, there needs to be a collection and collation of information about the massacres that occurred. This information should be collected both from archival sources, and from oral histories of past and present Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

This thesis demonstrates that there is scope for a number of comparative studies to be done on the management of atrocity sites in Australia and the US; particularly on Indigenous massacre sites and why memorials have been established so soon after the event at sites of contemporary massacres in the 1990s. How have the public memorials and commemorative activities for these massacres impacted on the private memories of the victims and families affected by the massacres? There is also a need for guidelines to be available for the managers of atrocity sites.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001 are a stark reminder that atrocities and massacres are still occurring. As demonstrated in this thesis, what all managers of atrocity sites do need to consider is that how the site is managed will impact on the public memory of the site and events both now and in the future.


Publications resulting from this thesis

Hollow, Rosemary & Spennemann, Dirk H.R. (2001) Managing sites of human atrocity. Cultural Resource Management 24(8), pp. 35-36