State of the Environment Report 2007 

Aboriginal site identification – history laid bare

Fire is an integral part of Aboriginal culture. That story took another turn after the 2003 bushfires, showing that good may come from bad. The damaging fires at least rewarded us with new insights into our ancient Indigenous story. Burning of the undergrowth revealed many Aboriginal sites: taking advantage of the increased visibility, a series of focused surveys identified the sites and placed them on the Heritage Unit database.

So, now some 1400 more sites and traces of the past are known and accurately plotted, information able to be put to practical uses. Where developments are being considered, developers and regulators can work around the sites, preserving their integrity. And in future fires, authorities will know where sites are together with what they might do in their fire-fighting – eg, where to bulldoze or burn firebreaks, where extra defensive efforts are merited (such as to save scar trees). This is an excellent, groundbreaking instance of a practical preservation plan for Indigenous heritage. Naturally, heritage authorities and Indigenous groups take care in the trade-off between knowing of sites and their possible overuse or damage – such as by fossickers. 

living sustainably

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