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Conference paper

‘What the stones tell us’: Challenges facing Aboriginal stone installations and metropolitan urban expansion

18 Jun 2018


Aboriginal stone arrangements in Australia are rarely found intact. These installations are even more difficult to appreciate their existence, to understand their cultural roles and narratives for Aboriginal communities, and conclusively understand what they mean to current generations. Many reside in the individual and or collective memory of Aboriginal Elders and their existence and purpose are not necessarily in the public domain nor appreciated by conventional Western land use planning, and Aboriginal-adapted and Western heritage regimes. While many known sites reside in regional landscapes across Australia’s lands and waters, it is the sites on the peri-urban fringes of Australia’s metropolitan cities that are causing considerable angst to Aboriginal custodians, and debates by land use planners and developers as to how to accommodate such sites in sprawl. Two such sites -- Wurdi Youang and Sunbury Earth Rings – in metropolitan Melbourne have common factors that allow an understanding of Indigenous culture, the positioning of the sites and three layers of landscape: ancient, Indigenous Country’s, and Western created and envisaged landscape. Both sites impinge upon pastoral lands and are under threat by urban sprawl. Land use planning reactions to this issue have primarily involved adaptation; a process whereby Aboriginal custodians, heritage and community groups and governments work together to create a new layered landscape of meaning that incorporates culture, community, a space, and seeks to protect / preserve / conserve the site as an artefact in time. This contrasts with comprehending its cultural meaning and role, its contribution to Indigenous cultural values, and how it sits in the process of culture establishment and continuity.

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