Indigenous views on the future of public archaeology in Australia. A conversation that did not happen

Kellie Pollard, Claire Smith, Jasmine Willika, Vince Copley sr, Vincent Copley jr, Christopher Willson, Emily Poelina-Hunter, Julie Ah Quee


This paper was written in response to a request by the editors of the AP: Online Journal of Public Archaeology, Jaime Almansa Sánchez and Elena Papagiannopoulou, for Claire Smith to write on the future of public archaeology in Australia. In Australia, public archaeology focusses on high profile colonial sites such as The Rocks in Sydney (Karskens 1999) and Port Arthur in Tasmania (Steele et al. 2007; Frew 2012), tourism (e.g. Cole and Wallis 2019) or enhancing school curricula (Nichols et al. 2005; Owens and Steele 2005). However, given her decades-long relationships with Jawoyn and Ngadjuri people (Smith 1999; Smith et al. 2016; Smith et al. 2020), Claire Smith decided that a useful way of approaching this topic would be to obtain Indigenous views on the subject. Accordingly, she contacted the Aboriginal co-authors of this article and invited them to co-author the paper. The possibility to write in free form was a boon. The ‘conversation’ format we settled on was designed to facilitate the voices of individuals, to present a range of Indigenous views, to allow people to express their views frankly, and to deal with the constraints of people being located in different parts of Australia as well as occasional lock-downs due to COVID-19. We decided on five topics/questions that would be the basis of the conversation. Each Aboriginal author gave their views either by email or by phone. These views were interwoven into a ‘conversation’. The language has been edited lightly for clarity and to simulate a real-life conversation. The final text was approved by all authors.

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