A primer on Cultural Heritage

There are many layers of information over your land. Soil, vegetation types, habitat, recreation… and also cultural heritage.

People have moved through where you live for tens of thousands of years. Sometimes you can see indications of this presence through such things as flints and scar trees, but there are other ways to connect with previous generations.

Understanding how people lived in and used the land historically can give you a deeper understanding of how to manage it into the future.

Markers in the landscape

Aboriginal cultural values and significant sites can be found almost anywhere in the NSW landscape.

There are many different types of sites that contain cultural values such as middens, ochre quarries, stone quarries, hearths, scarred trees, carved trees, stone tools and grinding grooves.

Even if your land has no physical markers of Aboriginal occupation, cultural values will remain such as native bush medicines, foods and materials such as ochre and stone suitable for tool making.

Some examples of Aboriginal cultural sites include:

Artefact scattersBurial sitesScarred trees Grinding groovesMission sites
Rock artCarved treesMidden sitesReserve sitesAboriginal ceremony and dreaming sites
Aboriginal resource sites Ceremonial ringsEarth moundsOchre quarriesPotential archaeological deposits
Fish trapsHabitation structuresHearthsOrganic materialStone arrangements
Modified treesWater holesStone quarriesGathering sitesAboriginal cemeteries

Aboriginal natural resource values

Aboriginal cultural values are not just found in artefacts and historical markers. Native plants and animals also hold significance to Aboriginal communities due to their value as food, fibre, medicine and other traditional uses. Understanding these values can help you maintain significant species in the current landscape.

Once the only people occupying this continent, Aboriginal people used natural resources according to their 'lore' to maintain systems and species. The value Aboriginal people place on natural resources stems from the strong relationship and respect they have for the land.

The health of the land and the maintenance of biodiversity continues to be linked to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people, both physically and spiritually.

Aboriginal nations and language groups

Landholders are increasingly wanting to find out more about the history of Aboriginal people in their area.

A simple way to do this is to find out more about your region’s Aboriginal Nation. While not definitive, the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia will indicate your local Aboriginal Nation and lead to further research.

Your local library will also carry information on your region’s Aboriginal culture and points of significance in the landscape.

Connecting with your local Aboriginal community

You may also find out more about the cultural layer of the landscape by talking with your local Aboriginal community.

Events like NAIDOC week create space to meet people and ask questions. Please remember to approach people respectfully and keep in mind that some things are not shared with the wider community.

Your Local Land Services or Local Aboriginal Land Council can also advise you on where to find out more about the Aboriginal history on your land.

Identifying examples of Aboriginal cultural heritage

These last remaining relics of the region's past Aboriginal inhabitants hold important historical and cultural meaning for current and future generations of Aboriginal people.

These relics and sites are also a valuable part of the shared heritage of the wider Australian community and provide evidence of activities that have taken place for thousands of years.

They communicate the story of how Aboriginal people interacted with the landscape.

Non-Aboriginal cultural and natural heritage

You may also find items of significant cultural heritage that reflect the region's history when early Europeans moved and lived in the region. While many of these items are located in the region's towns and villages, much valuable heritage is located in rural areas.

Trees blazed (marked) by explorers, elegant homesteads, cemeteries and unique shearing sheds are the first to spring to mind but most items are far less remarkable, including bridges and original infrastructure. Many of these items provide useful insights into the condition of the landscape and how it was managed and constitute a valuable resource that should not be lost.

In an era when rural Australia is under a great deal of social as well as economic and environmental pressure, a sense of identity is crucial to regional communities that are dealing with a globalised environment. There is also a responsibility to the wider Australian community, which in this increasingly technological age, continues to find its identity in the 'bush'.

Remarkably, our highly-urbanised country maintains its connection with its tracts of untouched forest and empty places and its pastoral vistas and rural lifestyle in almost equal measure.

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