Tangible Artefacts Unearth Contemporary Legalities: Aboriginal Artefacts and the Randwick Light Rail Project
There is insufficient legal protection for tangible but non-charismatic Aboriginal artefacts in New South Wales, Australia. The State laws are insufficient because they provide State actors with the power to protect those artefacts and to decide whether artefacts are significant for Aboriginal peoples according to Aboriginal traditions. This article compares the laws that governed the excavation of Aboriginal artefacts in a colonial archaeological excavation in New South Wales. Doing so unearths how State law operates to privilege colonial heritage. This is unsurprising because law is an intangible cultural artefact that is the result of the historical and political sedimentation of power. The article then orients State cultural heritage protection within international cultural heritage law to reveal the political controversies for cultural heritage protection that animate struggles between Aboriginal peoples and States. Using a human rights regime may seem a promising means for providing Aboriginal peoples with the ability to protect their artefacts. But like international cultural heritage law, human rights depend upon layers of State control, making it unlikely that human rights will help Aboriginal peoples protect their artefacts. Despite this, the human rights regime remains a useful analytic tool for unearthing the sedimentation of power in legal artefacts.
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Published in: Australian Journal of Human Rights, volume 23, issue 3
Rights Statement: They own it.
Keywords: Indigenous peoples; Aboriginal peoples; cultural heritage; international law; international cultural heritage; tangible artefacts; New South Wales; Randwick Light Rail Project; National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NSW); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 (Cth)
Research Type: Journal Article